More and more food companies are being forced to remove false health claims from their packaging and marketing. Just yesterday, Ben & Jerry's announced they would be removing the phrase "all natural" from their labels after they were pressured by a health advocacy group who said the company should not use that phrase if products contain ingredients that are not natural.
The Food & Drug Administration has no formal definition for "natural." But it won't object to term as long as products do not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.
On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission sued the maker of a popular pomegranate juice - POM Wonderful LLC. The suit alleges that advertisements one of the company's juice drinks and another for one of their pomegranate supplements contain "false and unsubstantiated claims" about treating or preventing heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction.
Now, I'm not one for tons of government regulation, however this is one area where I feel we need federal regulators to intervene - when it comes to companies making claims about their products improving your health and curing you from certain diseases.
Now, as a consumer, you should know that you should not believe everything you read. But when the food industry and the unregulated herbal supplement industry - which has basically been a free-for-all for decades - start touting their products as cure-alls with no scientific research to back up their claims, it's high time some federal regulation to be put into place.
In 1994, Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), allowing supplements that don't contain approved pharmaceutical drugs (and don't claim to "treat" diseases) to be sold without approval from the FDA and without proof of efficacy or safety. And today, when we see racks and racks of these supplements for sale at our local pharmacy or supermarket, it really gives us a false sense of security as consumers.
As a doctor, I also have to point out the fact that as health care professionals, we spend a lot of time and money to prove our proficiency only to be charged hefty malpractice insurance premiums and dodge lawsuits from those we set out to help. Granted, some malpractice suits are warranted - but these companies are making billions on their products just because they have the money to spend on clever marketing schemes, which sometimes are just flat out lies.