National Consumers League

Food

NCL Food Issues

NCL urges FDA to crack down on use of term ‘fresh’

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In a letter to the Food and Drug Administration commemorating the tenth anniversary of the agency’s seizure of orange juice with false and misleading labeling, the National Consumers League asked the FDA to crack down on companies that are clearly violating labeling laws today.

In 1991, then FDA Commissioner David Kessler initiated the seizure and forfeiture of Citrus Hill “Fresh Choice,” signaling to industry and to consumers that false and exaggerated labeling claims would no longer be tolerated. Shortly thereafter, the agency forced tomato sauce companies to discontinue use of the term “fresh” and sent warning letters to other juice and canned vegetable companies.

“Today, abuse of ‘fresh’ claims is again widespread and on the rise,” wrote Linda Golodner, president of NCL. “NCL does not believe that manufacturers should be able to flout a consumer-protection regulation like the ‘fresh’ rule with impunity.” Certain lines of juices and tomato sauces carry the word “fresh” on the label and in actuality are reconstituted from industrial concentrate, which could confuse consumers. Often companies obscure terms required to be on the label, such as “from concentrate,” with small type size and concealing colors.

The FDA is reconsidering whether products processed using certain alternative technologies, such as high pressure processing and ultraviolet light, should be eligible to make a “fresh” claim.

“To the best of our knowledge,” Golodner writes, “none of the violative products...employ any of the alternative technologies FDA is considering and, therefore, none of them would qualify to make a qualified ‘fresh’ claim even if the regulation were amended.”

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to identify, protect, represent, and advance the economic and social interests of consumers and workers. NCL is a private, nonprofit membership organization. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

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