FDA Warns Canada Dry, Lipton Against Making Health Claims On Green Tea Drinks

Canada Dry and Lipton have been yellow-carded by referees at at Food and Drug Administration, who have warned the beverage makers of making unauthorized nutrient claims on their green tea drinks.

First, the FDA fired off a missive to Canada Dry parent company, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, about Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale. The agency says the drink, which is classified as a snack food because it’s carbonated, is breaking the rules by claiming it is “enhanced” with antioxidants. Also, says the FDA, those ingredients the producers claim to contain antioxidants “are not nutrients with recognized antioxidant activity.”

And then Unilever, the parent company of the Lipton brand, got some scorn from the FDA over its Lipton Green Tea 100% Naturally Decaffeinated drink. The FDA says the beverage is treading dangerous ground by by linking consumption of green tea to reduced cholesterol for people at risk of heart disease. The agency told Unilever that when a product makes a claim like that, it then becomes a drug, meaning it would need to prove its efficacy and safety.

This news comes only a couple weeks after a study showing that bottled teas are probably nowhere near as antioxidant-rich as they claim to be.

FDA warns green tea makers against health claims [L.A. Times]

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  1. smo0 says:

    I’m for this… we have these procedures in play – be them botched in and of themselves… but you’re either one thing… or another – you cannot be both.

    But then again… these same regulations are the reasons uregulated hollistic medicine run rampant…… and pose many dangers to the unsuspecting.

  2. shepd says:

    Unilever makes food now? Gawd, I must be out of touch, I thought they were a soap company.

  3. MamaBug says:

    Let the Tea Party comments commence!

  4. JonBonWonton says:

    I love the Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale, but I never once believed it was good for me.

  5. IThinkThereforeIAm says:

    “The agency told Unilever that when a product makes a claim like that, it then becomes a drug, meaning it would need to prove its efficacy and safety.”

    While I agree that claims in advertising should be substantiated, the above sentence sounds a little fishy. Pretty much all dietary supplements and “health foods” make claims (usually qualified with some clause “As part of a healthy diet”, etc.) and yet I do not believe that it makes them “drugs”.

    How about natural remedies, which can claim (and very often deliver) similar health benefits? Is chamomile now a drug?

    It sounds like the FDA after years of being the butt end of criticism is now crossing over to “if we can’t do our job than we;ll try to overdo” territory.

    • j_rose says:

      I think the claim is to treat a disease or condition, such as “reduced cholesterol for people at risk of heart disease”. it’s not just any claim, it’s a claim that it treats a health problem.

    • j_rose says:

      I think the claim is to treat a disease or condition, such as “reduced cholesterol for people at risk of heart disease”. it’s not just any claim, it’s a claim that it treats a health problem.

      For example, I have a Monster energy drink right here. It says “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease”. The tea is claiming it can treat heart disease.

      • IThinkThereforeIAm says:

        I see your point… and it makes sense.
        However the article was much less clear on that than you.

    • Joewithay says:

      Dietary Supplements fall under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 for better or worse.

      http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/default.htm

  6. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    The actual ingredient in green tea that contains most of the health benefits is an amino acid called L-Theanine. The studies I read show that to have a discernible effect, the average person needs a daily dose of at least 100 mg. Unless the makers of these drinks are supplementing them with at least 25 mg of L-Theanine per serving, I would find their health claims not credible.

    • quijote says:

      Even if there were evidence of a small health benefit, you’d probably have to consume the drink regularly, and wouldn’t regular consumption of a drink with 35g of sugar per serving more than negate any potential health benefit?

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        Four servings a day of 35g of sugars comes well under the maximum total daily limit for a diabetic diet as outlined by the American Diabetes Association, if you assume one at each meal and ignore the impact a bolus of pure sugar would have on a diabetic’s glucose level. It would have no significant impact on someone whose insulin reaction is normal, provided they don’t overindulge in other ways. But this is all quite beside the point if there exists a diet version of the drink.

        My main point was that it is exceedingly unlikely that the drink contains any therapeutically active amount of the substance. If it did, it would be a drug and fall under drug regulations, and they know that.

  7. suburbancowboy says:

    “If you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”
    — Michael Pollan (In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto)

  8. 8TrackMind says:

    Whaaa, why can’t big government leave us alone to make specious health claims to bilk the public?

  9. valthun says:

    So are Cheerios a drug then?

  10. Difdi says:

    I wonder, if you label a food product as “prevents starvation, starvation can lead to severe health risks and death” would the product become a drug by FDA standards?