Category Archives: Truth in labeling

Misleading trans fat claims make news as Quaker settles labeling law suit

iStock_000041289832SmallWhen it comes to trans fat, FoodFacts.com has always been amazed that manufacturers are able to label foods containing less than .5 grams per serving as “trans fat free.” The labeling is false, it’s purposely misleading and it relies on the idea that consumers don’t understand ingredients. What manufacturers forget, though, is that there actually are educated consumers out there who understand that partially hydrogenated oils in an ingredient list indicate the presence of trans fat in a product. And some of them are willing to do something about misleading product claims.

The Quaker Oats Co., a division of Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo, Inc., has agreed to remove trans fats from its Oatmeal to Go and Instant Quaker Oatmeal products as part of a lawsuit settlement dating back more than three years.

Under terms of the settlement filed June 12 and made final on July 29 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Quaker Oats said it will pay up to $760,000 in attorney fees and estimates it will spend about $1.4 million to reformulate the products.

Although Quaker continues to deny allegations that the products contain or contained false or misleading labeling, the company has agreed to remove partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from Oatmeal to Go and Instant Quaker Oatmeal by the end of 2015. Quaker also has agreed not to re-introduce PHOs into those products for at least 10 years thereafter, and has agreed not to introduce PHOs into Quaker Chewy bars, or the Instant Quaker Oatmeal Products that do not currently contain PHOs, for a period of 10 years. Finally, Quaker has agreed to stop making the statement “contains a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat” on the labels of any of its products that contain 0.2 grams or more of artificial trans fat per serving by the end of this year.

Approximately 50 different varieties of Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal and Chewy and Oatmeal to Go bars were named in the settlement.

So even though Quaker is still standing by its product statements, they’ve agreed to remove trans fat from the products named in the lawsuit. Nothing wrong with the products, seemingly, just that pesky lawsuit.

We don’t really think that’s it. Instead, we think that it makes more sense for Quaker to settle out of court so that the company can stand by its claims and its products while making some quiet changes than to let this go to court where millions of other consumers may develop a clear understanding of what’s really in their products.

This is a victory for consumers, undoubtedly. At the same time, we’d really rather that the strange rule about claiming 0 grams of trans fat when products really do contain it would disappear.

http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Business_News/2014/08/Quaker_settles_trans_fat_label.aspx?ID=%7B84BC2EC0-2C7E-45A4-9A3A-F87392B80CBB%7D

Food Fight! Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates at odds over added sugar transparency on food labels

iStock_000001563163SmallFor many of us of a certain generation, the words “Food Fight” will always invoke the memory of John Belushi’s Bluto screaming the phrase in the middle of the cafeteria featured in the classic movie, Animal House. If only the world could always be that simple and funny. This post, however, details a real-life, real-time food fight that has erupted between powerful Big Sugar lobbyists and public health advocates on the heels of the Food And Drug Administration’s proposed changes to nutrition labels that include listing the amount of added sugar in food products.

Here at FoodFacts.com, we think everyone would like to know how much sugar the food industry is actually adding to the products we purchase. We’re sure that even the most uneducated food consumer would choose transparency when it comes to this serious and well-publicized issue.

Scientific studies increasingly are finding links between sugar consumption and chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension. With public health at stake, advocates say, consumers need to be informed of what is being introduced into their food.

“Food producers and others that represent sugar interests are robbing us of this information that we should have access to, they’re robbing us of our health,” said Gretchen Goldman, an analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “People have a right to know how much sugar is in their foods.”
The inclusion of added sugars appears to be a jab from the FDA at food manufacturers, whether the agency intended for it to be or not. Other measurements on nutrition labels—calories, fat, sodium—are passive: They simply state how much is in the food. But the added sugars measurement is active: It implies that the company the consumer is purchasing from has included something that could be dangerous in high doses over the long term.

Food business groups argue that a gram of sugar, natural or added, is a gram of sugar—so why distinguish it?

“There is no chemical difference between naturally occurring sugars or added sugars, and…there is no scientific evidence that added sugars are linked to obesity or other chronic diseases,” said Lee Sanders, a spokeswoman for the American Bakers Association.

But foods containing added sugar are among the most unhealthy, supporters of the FDA proposal say, and more information is a good way for consumers to be more conscious of that.

“The food industry response has said that the body doesn’t distinguish between added and natural sugar, and that’s true…but we do no harm by limiting added sugar, and we know it’s a good way to limit calorie intake. It seems to be a logical step to include added sugars on the label,” said Rachel Johnson, a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont.

The American Heart Association, which supports the label change, came out with a scientific statement in 2009 that recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day for women, and nine teaspoons a day for men, citing the body of evidence that connects high intake of sugar to health problems.

Big Sugar, advocates say, is employing strategies reminiscent of Big Tobacco in its heyday.

“[They’re] different players, but it’s the same game,” Goldman said. “We’re seeing the exact same tactics that Big Tobacco was using. They’re trying to manufacture doubt in the science, they’re trying to pay their own experts to carry their talking points, and they’re doing these things with the intent to undermine public policy.”

Industry also has other objections to the proposed change to nutrition labels: Sanders, from the bakers’ lobbying group, said it would be “difficult, if not impossible, to calculate added sugar.” The FDA acknowledges the costs of the rule change for businesses, estimating that the one-time expenditure would be $2.3 billion for labeling, reformulation of products, and record keeping.

And there are more individualized concerns. The International Dairy Foods Association, for example, is concerned that the definition of added sugar includes natural sugars isolated from a whole food and concentrated so that sugar is the primary component—fruit juice concentrate, for example. That would affect the added sugar count for dairy products such as whey, nonfat dry milk, or milk protein concentrate.

The proposed FDA change appears to have left the biggest of the industry lobbying groups unenthusiastic about communicating with the media. A Sugar Association spokeswoman, Tonya Allen, declined to speak by phone on the issue, pointing only to a weeks-old statement put out by the organization. The Corn Refiners Association did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Stakeholders and business groups have until August 1 to comment on the proposed change. The FDA then will review the comments and consider them in edits to the proposed label, followed by the enactment of a final label. Industry will then, under the proposed rules, have a two-year transitional period over which to comply with the new requirements.

Over the next two weeks, as the FDA comments period draws to a close, industry groups are expected to turn up the heat on the proposal.

“The food industry knows that when they add it to food, you buy more. They don’t add it for any other reason,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a University of California-San Francisco professor who has campaigned against sugar consumption. “You [currently] can’t tell how much sugar has been added, and the food industry wants it that way.”

Read that last quote carefully. We can’t tell how much sugar has been added to our food. We’re being told to keep sugar consumption to between 6 and 9 teaspoons per day (depending on our gender). It appears we don’t know how much sugar we’re consuming and lobbyists are trying to keep it that way. And it certainly doesn’t appear that the “sugar is sugar” argument being made by the sugar lobby has much to do with the problem. The problem originates with the question, “how sweet is sweet enough?” The food industry wants to continue to answer that question without transparency or input. We’re hopeful that the FDA will begin making these major changes next month.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/19/guess-who-doesn-t-want-you-to-know-how-much-added-sugar-is-in-your-food.html

Progress in labeling … lawsuit against General Mills reaches a settlement

FoodFacts.com has been following the lawsuits that have been filed against various food manufacturers based on misleading labeling. Today, we have some news regarding one of those suits that was brought against General Mills by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and a consumer protection law firm.

It focused on Strawberry Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-Ups – which actually aren’t made with any strawberries. That’s right, no strawberries at all – just pears from concentrate and some “natural flavors,” so they can taste like strawberry.
The settlement of the lawsuit requires General Mills to market this product differently than they have been. As long as the product does not contain actual strawberries, the new labels cannot include any images of strawberries. In addition to this important fact, as long as the packaging reads “Made with Real Fruit,” General Mills is required to state the actual percentage of real fruit included in the product. The Center for Science in the Public Interest feels that this requirement will give consumers a more honest definition of the food product they are purchasing. Many purchasing these products currently believe they are made completely or mostly from fruit. While the most honest labeling for the product would be Pear Naturally Flavored Fruit Roll-ups, the removal of strawberry images from the packaging is certainly a more accurate representation.

While these changes aren’t required to take effect until 2014, FoodFacts.com is encouraged that there is actual progress being made in labeling the products in our food supply in a more honest manner. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been behind other labeling changes and advertising issues. They’ve been behind agreements with Kellogg’s regarding improvements made to the products they manufacture that are specifically targeted to children as well as the removal of partially hydrogenated oils from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

FoodFacts.com will continue to keep our community updated on other developments in the numerous lawsuits against food manufacturers that may help consumers make more educated food choices free from misleading product claims.

http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/the-strawberries-are-about-to-disappear-from-the-labels-of-strawberry-fruit-roll-ups-122712.html
http://www.startribune.com/business/184878301.html?refer=y