Despite the Food and Drug Administration issuing more warning letters to transgressors, the better nutrition lobby group said the likes of Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Kraft, General Mills and Nestlé continued to “confuse or defraud consumers about the health effects, ingredients, or ‘natural’-ness of their products”.
CSPI called for the qualified health claim and structure-function health claims systems to be abolished.
"For far too long, some of the world's biggest food manufacturers have designed their labels either to exaggerate the amount of healthy ingredients, or to imply that the food has magical, drug-like qualities that could prevent or treat various health problems," said CSPI legal affairs director Bruce Silverglade.
"The Bush Administration gave manufacturers more and more license to deceive. But the party’s over—or at least it should be."
Products it calls to question included Kellogg’s-owned Kashi Heart to Heart Instant Oatmeal for making unauthorized green tea-related "support healthy arteries" claims; Coca-Cola-owned Glacéau VitaminWater for confusing calorie-labelling; Thomas' Hearty Grains English Muffins for misleading whole grain claims and Coke’s Minute Maid for misleading ‘natural’ claims.
While not commenting on the specifics of the CSPI accusations, Virginia-based pro-claims lawyer, Jonathan Emord, defended the right of claims to exist, even when the science is supportive but not conclusive.
“Consumers do not need a government nanny; they need access to accurate information concerning the potential of nutrients to affect disease, leaving it to them, not government, to make ultimate determinations on the relative merit of the information. Qualified claims ensure that consumers are a part of the evolution of science, not paternalistically locked out of it by an overly suppressive government censor.”
CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Ringel Heller, co-author of the report, said it was an FDA obligation to ensure honest labeling.
"Companies should market their foods without resorting to the deceit and dishonesty that's so common today. And, if they don't, the FDA should make them."