F.D.A. issues warnings on green tea claims

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Sept. 7 posted warning letters it issued late last month to Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., Plano, Texas, and Unilever, Inc., Englewood, N.J., for making unauthorized nutrient content claims regarding green tea on product labels and web sites.

In a letter dated Aug. 30 and posted on the F.D.A.’s web site Sept. 7, the agency said Dr Pepper’s Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale was in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act because of its use of the word “enhanced” relating to antioxidants from green tea.

“Your Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale bears the claim, ‘Enhanced with 200 mg of antioxidants from green tea and vitamin C**’ with the double asterisk referring to the statement, “** Each 8-oz serving contains 200 mg of antioxidants from green tea flavonoids and vitamin C’ on the principal display panel of the product label,” the F.D.A. said. “In the context of this label the term ‘enhanced’ is an unauthorized synonym for a ‘more’ nutrient content claim.”

The F.D.A. said “more” nutrient claims may only be used in labeling provided the food contains at least 10% more of the Reference Daily Intake or Daily Reference Value for the nutrient per reference amount customarily consumed than an appropriate reference food, or where the claim is based on nutrients that are added to the food, that the fortification is in accordance with the policy on fortification of foods.

In a letter dated Aug. 23 and released on Sept. 7, the F.D.A. said Unilever made unauthorized nutrient claims as well as improperly promoted its Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated with wording that make it a drug under federal regulations. According to the F.D.A., promotional material, including the product’s web site, cite studies showing that tea lowers cholesterol.

“The therapeutic claims on your web site establish that the product is a drug because it is intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,” the F.D.A. said.

The agency added, “Your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use this drug safely for its intended purposes. Thus, your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is misbranded.”

Both Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Unilever have 15 days from receipt of the warning letters to respond to the F.D.A.

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