FDA Eases Food Label Health Claim Guidelines
The FDA yesterday announced it would allow manufacturers to note certain health claims on food product labels before they are scientifically proven, the Los Angeles Times reports. In a change from previously requiring "significant scientific agreement" before allowing manufacturers to make health and nutrition claims for food, the agency now only will seek the "weight of scientific evidence" (Kemper, Los Angeles Times, 12/19). The agency will have "final say" in determining whether the weight of evidence supports claims, officials said. In addition, the new guidelines will require that a "claim is qualified by appropriate language so consumers are not misled as to the degree of scientific uncertainty that would still exist," Long Island Newsday reports. FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said he has established an internal FDA task force to help establish the weight of evidence standard and to help create regulations as needed, Newsday reports (Lane, Long Island Newsday, 12/19).
The FDA yesterday also said it would begin "crack[ing] down" on false health claims made by dietary supplement makers, the Times reports. The agency is limited in its regulation of the supplement industry to monitoring the "truthfulness of [supplements'] labels and advertising claims"; supplements do not have to pass FDA tests for safety or effectiveness before becoming available to consumers. McClellan said, "[The FDA is] committed to improving opportunities for consumers to get scientifically accurate information about the health consequences of the foods they consume, and to enhancing our enforcement efforts against those who would make false or misleading claims for their products." Some consumer health advocates said that undertaking both endeavors could be too much for the agency. Bruce Silverglade, legal director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, "The FDA has just made its job harder. It doesn't have the resources to conduct systematic enforcement" (Los Angeles Times, 12/19). National Food Processors Association spokesperson Timothy Willard said the FDA's announcement was a "very positive move" that would help companies "provide more information on the benefits of products by our food labels" (Long Island Newsday, 12/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.