FDA gets tough on misleading food labels

March 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
7 On Your Side took Campbell's Soup to task for labels that many see as misleading. But the story doesn't end there.

Following the report, the Food and Drug Administration warned the makers of 17 other popular products that their labels are misleading and must be changed. Campbell's wasn't on the list, but you will recognize a lot of others.

Consumers rely on food labels, perhaps too much. On Thursday, the FDA put 17 companies on notice for using labels it says are misleading shoppers.

"We hope this is the start of a battle that will lead to a war that will end deceptive food labeling," Bruce Silverglade from the Center for Science in the Public Interest said.

Among those getting warnings are the makers of Nestle's Drumsticks and Gorton's Fish Filets. The FDA says the front-side labels emphasize zero trans fats but don't mention they contain saturated and other fats.

"I would definitely buy the one that said zero trans fat," Kerri Mos said.

The FDA also warned the makers of Juicy Juice. The label says it contains 100 percent juice when it's actually a juice blend with added flavors.

And the label for Gerber's Baby Food says healthy and excellent source of vitamin A. Such claims are not allowed on products aimed at kids under 2.

Other products were called out for labels claiming to treat or cure everything from high blood pressure to cancer.

"Companies try to get around the rules by using vague terminology such as helps support your immune system, or heart healthy," Silverglade said.

Food manufacturers contacted by 7 On Your Side all say they are committed to making healthy, nutritious products and are working with the FDA to comply with food label regulations.

Earlier this week, 7 On Your Side showed how Campbell's Tomato Soup labeled less sodium actually has just as much salt as the regular soup.

"They're the same! I wonder why they're doing that," Phyllis Goodman from San Francisco said.

"That is really funny. So people would buy that thinking they're getting less sodium, oh that is hilarious," another shopper said.

And a Campbell's Heart Healthy variety contains fat, while the regular soup has none.

"They're essentially basically the same one just has a more pronounced label," UCSF nutritionist Toby Morris said.

Campbell's told 7 On Your Side the low sodium label is comparing that soup with all varieties of its condensed soup, not just the tomato.


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