FDA Cracks Down On Nutrition And Health Claims By Green Tea Makers

Sep 14, 2010   

The Food and Drug Administration has issued warning letters to two large producers of green tea drinks to discontinue unauthorized and unproven health and nutrient claims on their labels and websites. The warning letters were issued to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group for its Canada Dry Sparking Green Tea Ginger Ale (“Canada Dry”) and to Unilever Inc. for its Lipton Green Tea 100% Naturally Decaffeinated product (“Lipton”). The warning letters are part of a larger campaign by the FDA to improve the accuracy and useful information of food labeling.

In its warning letter to Canada Dry, the FDA stated that the company’s sparkling green tea ginger ale made improper claims to be “enhanced” with antioxidants. Canada Dry’s label claims its green tea ginger ale is “enhanced with 200mg of antioxidants from green tea and vitamin C.” However, because Canada Dry is a carbonated drink, the FDA classifies it as a snack food. Current FDA policy does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods. As a result, Canada Dry cannot claim that its product is enhanced with antioxidants. Additionally, the FDA also warned Canada Dry that the ingredients claiming to contain antioxidants “are not nutrients with recognized antioxidant activity” under FDA regulations. As a result of these violations the FDA has found Canada Dry to be misbranded under the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”).The full warning letter to Canada Dry can be read at: FDA Warning Letter To Canada Dry.

Unilever, the manufacturer of Lipton, was warned that its website for its Lipton product made misleading health claims and that Lipton’s antioxidant labeling did not follow FDA guidelines. In its warning letter, the FDA takes issue with Lipton’s website’s reference to four studies that showed a cholesterol-lowering effect of drinking green tea. The FDA found that the therapeutic claims are misleading because it suggests that Lipton is designed to treat or prevent disease. The FDA stated that these claims would result in Lipton being classified as a drug under the FDCA and subject Lipton to requirements for proving the safety and effectiveness of the cholesterol-lowering claims before the product could be legally marketed in the US. The FDA also stated that Lipton’s antioxidant labeling claims violate several federal guidelines. Due to these violations, the FDA has found Lipton to be misbranded under the FDCA.  A full copy of the FDA’s warning to Lipton can be read at: FDA Warning Letter To Lipton.

As the nutrient-enriched beverage market continues to grow into a multibillion dollar business, the FDA will continue its efforts to crack down on companies that overstate the benefits of their products. For more information on FDA regulation and labeling guidelines, please contact us at contact@fidjlaw.com.