July 28, 2000
FDA Urged to Halt Sale of Functional Foods Containing Illegal
WASHINGTON - The Center for Science
in the Public Interest (CSPI) today urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt
the sale of dozens of functional foods that contain ingredients not considered
by the agency to be safe. In 158 pages of written complaints concerning more than 75
products, CSPI also urged the FDA to order manufacturers to stop making false and
misleading claims about their products.
Food companies are spiking fruit drinks, breakfast cereals, and snack foods with
illegal ingredients and then misleading consumers about their health benefits,
stated Bruce Silverglade, CSPI director of legal affairs. Its shameful that
respected companies are selling modern-day snake oil.
On display at a press conference in Washington, D.C., were dozens of products targeted in
CSPIs complaints to the FDA. Those included:
Moon Tea Drink containing kava kava. It claims to enlighten
your senses. Kava kava has been a factor in several arrests for driving while
intoxicated (DWI). Kava kava is also used in Apple & Eves Tribal Tonics
Relaxation Cocktail and Hansens dstress sparkling
Ben & Jerrys
Tropic of Mango Smoothie containing echinacea. Echinacea can cause
allergic reactions, including asthma attacks, and may counteract the effects of drugs that
suppress the immune system.
Memory Elixer containing ginkgo biloba. This product is labeled as
mind-enhancing. Ginkgo biloba acts as a blood thinner. Taking ginkgo biloba
with anticoagulant drugs may increase the risk of excessive bleeding or stroke.
Procter & Gambles
spire Energy with VitaLift Green Tea and Juice Beverage containing
guarana extract. The label promises to provide smooth, steady, sustained
energy. The FDA has stated that guarana is not considered to be a safe ingredient
for use in food.
Consumers are often deceived by
false claims, said Attorney General of Connecticut Richard Blumenthal at the press
conference. They are not told that many claims are not supported by valid scientific
evidence. We need more vigorous FDA enforcement of current laws on label claims. In
addition, Im recommending that state attorneys general make functional foods a top
consumer-protection initiative, he said.
Herbs are medicines that dont belong in soft drinks, breakfast cereals, and
snack chips, said Varro Tyler, Ph.D., Sc.D., Distinguished Professor Emeritus at
Purdue University and an internationally recognized expert on herbal medicine.
Companies that add herbs to foods to exploit consumer interest in alternative
medicine are acting irresponsibly, he said at the press conference.
The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report last week that strongly
criticized the FDAs regulation of functional foods. The GAO stated: FDAs
efforts and federal laws provide limited assurances of the safety of functional foods . .
. The report concluded that while the extent to which unsafe functional foods reach
consumers is unknown, the FDA should protect the public by halting misleading claims and
requiring warning labels where appropriate. The GAO report also concluded that Congress
should require companies to notify the FDA before using new functional
The FDA knows that the substances added to these food products are poorly tested at
best or potentially harmful at worst and that the claims are not scientifically
proven, said Ilene Ringel Heller, a CSPI staff attorney. By allowing
deceptively labeled nostrums to remain on the market, the FDA has failed to protect
A complete list of products that CSPI has asked the FDA to prohibit can be found at www.cspinet.org/reports/funcfoodcomplaint.htm.
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