Food Watchdog Group to Sue Over Deceptive Food Labeling

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - A food watchdog group announced Tuesday it has hired an attorney to head litigation efforts aimed at stopping deceptive food labeling, fraudulent advertising and the use of "dangerous food additives."

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) hired Stephen Gardner, a former assistant attorney general in New York and Texas, because they say the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission "have done a poor job enforcing the law in these areas."

The CSPI joined a potential class action lawsuit against the maker of Arizona Iced Tea, claiming the company made fraudulent claims on the labels of its "Arizona Rx' line of drinks. The labels claim that the drinks contain herbal ingredients like Echinacea, gingko biloba, ginseng and sometimes vitamins.

But according to independent lab tests, the drinks barely contained detectable levels of those ingredients, the food watchdog said in a press release. CSPI said there was also little or no evidence that any dose of those herbs and nutrients delivers the enhanced memory, reduced stress or other health benefits the company says they deliver.

"The Food and Drug Administration has the authority to correct these kinds of deceptive claims on food labels, but despite our many complaints over many years, the agency has rarely acted," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "So long as the FDA keeps napping, we'll be hauling more and more food companies into court to protect consumers from fraud."

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