CSPI urges FDA to end qualified health claims labeling

December 30, 2009

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sent a 158-page document to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration urging the agency to crackdown on false and misleading food labeling. CSPI wants the agency to prohibit qualified health claims for foods. Unlike "health claims," which must meet a "significant scientific agreement" standard, qualified health claims include disclaimers explaining that the scientific evidence is uncertain. CSPI also wants the FDA and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) to prohibit misleading "structure/function" claims that a given food will "support" or "maintain" healthy immune systems, joints, vision, and so on. Consumers simply can't distinguish between stringently regulated health claims, which require FDA approval, and structure/function claims, which don’t, according to CSPI.

CSPI also recommends improvements to the Nutrition Facts Panel, Ingredients label, and front-of-package nutrition labeling.

"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."

Press release