CSPI threatens Enviga on eve of FDA hearing

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has served notice on
Coca-Cola and Nestlé, the companies behind functional beverage
Enviga, and said it will sue them if they continue to market the
drink using calorie-burning and weight loss claims it says are
'fraudulent'.

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a vociferous watchdog group that has taken legal action against companies such as KFC and PepsiCo over labeling and health issues in the past.

The announcement coincides with today's US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) hearing on how to regulate labeling and health claims for functional foods and beverages, such as Enviga, which have no legal category of their own to date.

According to Euromonitor International, the US packaged functional/fortified foods market was worth $6.3bn at retail in 2005, and is expected to grow to $7.6bn by 2010.

As the category has grown, so too has discord over what claims companies are allowed to make - leaving the FDA to iron out regulatory definitions.

In an announcement for the hearing, the FDA used the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT)'s definition of functional foods as: "foods and food components that provide a health benefit beyond basic nutrition"​. These include: conventional, fortified, enriched and enhanced foods.

The FDA is responsible for ensuring that all foods (bar meat, poultry and eggs) are safe, sanitary, secure and properly labeled. Under the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act the authority regulates conventional foods and dietary supplements, the latter through the 1994 amendment the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act.

But as foods have started bearing claims for health benefits, they have trodden more and more on the territory of dietary supplements. Thus, the FDA hearing could open up the possibility for tighter regulations as demanded by groups such as CSPI.

Enviga is a carbonated green tea beverage that claims to burn more calories than it provides. It contains the active ingredient epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that occurs in green tea and caffeine. According to CSPI, a Coca-Cola corporate press release suggested that drinking three cans of Enviga would burn between 60 and 100 calories.

CSPI admitted that, as in the case of Enviga, it often chooses to warn a company prior to filing a lawsuit and thereby solve a problem without litigation. Therefore, if the present action prods the multinationals involved to make changes to the way they promote Enviga, CSPI may withdraw.

The nonprofit withdrew its lawsuit against KFC after the company switched to trans-fat-free cooking oil.

Enviga is being introduced in test markets in the New York City and Philadelphia metro areas and is set to launch nationwide in early 2007.

Related topics: Regulation

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