Congress finally has put a stop to this.
WASHINGTON—The just-passed omnibus spending bill urges the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not to permit so-called “qualified health claims” for foods until a Government Accountability Office report on the controversial program is completed. The step, first approved by the House of Representatives last August, has prompted the FDA to announce today that it is commencing a scientific review of several health claims previously permitted by the agency. The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest welcomed the move.
Qualified health claims are often based on tenuous scientific evidence and are informally reviewed, but not officially approved by the FDA. They have triggered numerous misleading labels and advertisements ranging from claims about green tea and cancer to statements that adding almonds to desserts can reduce the risk of heart disease.
The FDA, since 1993, mandated that health claims be based on “significant scientific agreement” and required companies to obtain formal approval. However, under pressure from the Bush Administration and the food industry, the FDA reversed course in 2003 and began allowing food companies to make claims based on much weaker evidence.
A coalition of medical, health, and consumer groups including the American, Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, AARP, the American Dietetic Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the American Public Health Association, the Society for Nutrition Education, the American College of Preventive Medicine, Consumers Union, and the Alliance for Retired Americans urged Congress to take action.