PLATFORM : Labels for Less

MIKE JACOBSON, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit national consumer advocate group, commented on the Food and Drug Administration's tough new policy toward food companies and truth in labeling:

For years food manufacturers used labeling tricks to make their products look better than they really are. At long last, the FDA is cracking down.

Consumers have a right to know just how much of which juice is in a watered-down juice drink. Claims like "96% fat free" shouldn't be allowed on products not low in fat. Processed foods shouldn't be labeled "fresh."

The FDA's new commissioner, Dr. David Kessler, deserves credit for moving against deceptive label claims. However, he has his work cut out for him. Numerous other claims deserve to be halted, such as "whole grain" products that contain white flour, "natural flavoring" on products that contain artificial flavoring, and "light" foods that are only light in taste or color. He also needs to persuade the Federal Trade Commission to bar advertising claims that are not permitted on labels and ensure that the Department of Agriculture issues uniform nutrition labeling rules for meat and poultry products.

And, beyond labeling, Commissioner Kessler needs to ban risky food additives, halt the widespread illegal use of veterinary drugs and ensure that seafood is free of dangerous bacteria and chemicals.

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