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Capitol Health Call
March 9, 2011

Food Labeling Claims

JAMA. 2011;305(10):987. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.265

The inability of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to compel companies to provide evidence supporting health benefit claims of certain foods hampers the agency's efforts to protect consumers from false or misleading statements, said a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released January 14 (http://tiny.cc/pnaxh).

At issue are structure/function claims, which describe the role of a nutrient or characterize the mechanism by which it affects a body structure or function. The use of these claims—such as “calcium helps build strong bone”—is subject to requirements that labeling not be false or misleading, but the GAO said the FDA has not given companies guidance on the scientific support needed to prevent such false claims. In addition, the FDA cannot compel companies to turn over the documents they do use to justify claims.