The nutrition blogosphere is abuzz with kudos, thumbs ups, and “You’re my Hero!” banners for the Food & Drug Administration now that they have gone after 18 companies (thank you, Marion Nestle, for that link) for front-of-package violations referring to nutrition claims.
When I first found out of this development, I was eager to learn what companies had been busted. After all, on a stroll through any supermarket aisle I usually find a handful of products that make exaggerated claims or make reference to healthful ingredients that, as revealed by the ingredient list, are found in miniscule amounts.
Instead, the majority of the FDA’s list focuses on products that I consider mostly inoffensive.
Here’s one example. Spectrum’s Organics (pictured, right) is “busted” because their organic all-vegetable shortening has a banner on the front of the package advertising “0 grams of trans fat”, without also stating the product contains significant levels of total fat and saturated fat.
So what? Spectrum’s Organics is not advertising their product as “low fat”. They are simply making a statement about trans fat. What’s so misleading?
The back of the container, meanwhile, accurately states that this shortening has less saturated fat than butter (one tablespoon of this shortening provides 6 grams of saturated fat, versus butter’s 7.3 grams per tablespoon.)
According to the FDA, this claim does not meet a legal requirement.
Spectrum’s Organics also correctly states that their all-vegetable shortening is “cholesterol-free”. The FDA also has a problem with this from a legal standpoint, even though it is a true statement (no plant foods contain cholesterol).
While I was certainly glad to see more misleading products — such as a green tea by Redco Foods that claims to help cure, prevent, or treat Alzheimer’s and cancer and POM Wonderful’s many hyped up health claims for its pomegranate juices– called to the mat, I was mostly underwhelmed.
Why doesn’t the FDA turn its attention to truly misleading health claims, like the “x grams of whole grains per serving” statements, which mean little and confuse lots?
When Teddy Grahams that consist largely of white flour and offer a mere dusting of whole wheat flour advertise their “grams of whole grains per serving”, I think back to the amount of consumers I spoke with who thought that statement was in reference to grams of fiber per serving!
At the very least, those statements should be accompanied by a “not a whole grain food” disclaimer!