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Nestle rebuked by the FDA for misleading nutritional labeling

December 25, 2009 |  9:02 am
The Food and Drug Administration came down on Nestle earlier this month for marketing its childrens’ juice boxes as “medical” foods.

In a Dec. 3 letter, the FDA said the company mislabeled its Boost drink, which comes in flavors like chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, “as a medical food for the medical condition of ‘failure to thrive’ and also for ‘pre/post surgery, injury or trauma, chronic illnesses.’” According to federal guidelines, the letter explains, “medical foods must be for the dietary management of a specific disorder, disease, or condition for which there are distinctive nutritional requirements and must be intended to be used under medical supervision.”

Not sure “failure to thrive” really counts as a disease.
 
But wait, there’s more. A second letter dated Dec. 4 criticizes Nestle’s Juicy Juice line for, among other things, claiming the drink “helps support brain development” in children younger than 2. Also, the letter said the labels “may lead consumers to believe that the products are 100% orange/tangerine juice or 100% grape juice when, in fact, they are not.”

A Nestle representative told Reuters that the company would fully cooperate with the FDA. But Nestle isn’t the first company to be accused of playing fast and loose with food labels to tug on those parental guilt strings -- there are many more common claims that may not raise federal ire. Think of the phrases “whole grain” and “good source of ___.” Check out Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart guide to tricky lingo -- No. 6 on the list, regarding Cheerios and the lowering of cholesterol, might sound remarkably similar to the FDA’s issue with Nestle.

Children aren’t savvy enough to read between the marketing lines, so their parents must learn to be. No excuses -- it’s often as simple as turning that juice box over to check out the ingredients and the nutrition label.

-- Amina Khan

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