The article in the url below covers a warning by the Food & Drug Administration to General Mills about the health claims on its Cheerios packets. In particular, the FDA took exception to the firm’s claim that “in just six weeks, Cheerios can reduce bad cholesterol by an average of 4 per cent”:
“The FDA warned that [General Mills] was exceeding the qualified health claim approved for food labels on the benefits of soluble fibre.”
The article argues that the decision indicates that the FDA is seeking to limit producers’ claims, in general. The FDA stated that, by making the health claims on Cheerio’s ability to reduce cholesterol, General Mills was marketing its cereal, “in effect, like a drug” and, as such, would be subject to much stricter oversight of the veracity of those claims.
The decision suggests the FDA might be willing to take a much more activist role in regulating the claims made by food manufacturers on their product labels. The article also argues, however, that the FDA’s more activist stance will pale in comparison to the remit of the relatively new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA):
“While the FDA restricts its authority over food marketing to "disease" reduction claims on labels - such as whether foods reduce the risk of heart disease or cancer - the EFSA has been asked by the European Commission to assess "functional" health claims as well - such as assertions that a food ingredient helps blood circulation or helps increase concentration.”
Early decisions by the EFSA suggest the agency has set a high threshold of scientific ‘evidence’ that firms will need to provide to validate any claims. And, only approved claims will be allowed to be included on labels after 2010.
Bill Werther & David Chandler
Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility
© Sage Publications, 2006
Taste of a stricter future for health claims on food labels; Agencies on both sides of the Atlantic have started to show a deeper interest in how manufacturers promote their products
By Jonathan Birchall in New York
22 May 2009