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Food packaging: FDA says Chiquita labels are misleading

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned Chiquita Brands International that several of the company’s fruit blends are labeled in a way that could mislead consumers.

In a letter issued to Chiquita, the FDA stated the following:

Starting on May 21, 2010 and ending on June 10, 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected your food manufacturing facility located at 900 E. Blanco Road, Salinas, California. During this inspection, FDA investigators collected labels for your products and reviewed their labeling. Based on our review, we have concluded that your Chiquita brand "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" and "Pineapple Bites" products are misbranded in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) and the applicable regulations in Title 21, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 101 (21 CFR 101).

Specifically, your "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" product is misbranded within the meaning of Section 403(a) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 343(a)] in that its statement of identity, "Pineapple Bites with Coconut", is false and misleading. The ingredient statement for this product states that it is made with coconut; however, our investigation determined that this product is made with a coconut flavor spray. The characterizing flavor of your Pineapple with Coconut product must be identified in accordance with 21 CFR 101.22(i)(1)(iii) (for example. "coconut flavor").

Your "Pineapple Bites" and "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" products are misbranded within the meaning of Section 403(r)(1)(A) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 343(r)(1)(A)] because their labeling bears nutrient content claims but the products do not meet the requirements for the claims.

Specifically, their labeling includes the claim "Plus ... Antioxidants." However, this claim does not include the names of the nutrients that are the subject of the claim or, alternatively, link the term "antioxidants" by a symbol (e.g., an asterisk) that refers to the same symbol that appears elsewhere on the same panel of the product label, followed by the name or names of the nutrients with recognized antioxidant activity. 21 CFR 101.54(g)(4). Your use of this antioxidant claim therefore misbrands your products under section 403(r)(2)(A)(i) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 343(r)(2)(A)(i)].

Your "Pineapple Bites" and "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" products also bear the claim "Plus Phytonutrients." "Phytonutrients" are not nutrients for which a recommended daily intake (RDI) or daily recommended value (DRV) has been established. Therefore, nutrient content claims regarding "phytonutrients" are not authorized and further misbrand your products under section 403(r)(2)(A)(i) of the Act [21 U.S.C. § 343(r)(2)(A)(i)]. To the extent phytonutrients are intended to be the basis for an antioxidant nutrient content claim, that use would violate FDA regulations for the same reason and because phytonutrients are not recognized as having antioxidant activity. 21 CFR 101.54(g)(1) and (2).

Both your "Pineapple Bites" and "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" products also bear the statement "Only 40 Calories." This statement implies that the products are "low calorie" foods. A "low calorie" claim may be made if a food with a reference amount customarily consumed (RACC) greater than 30 grams (g) or greater than 2 tablespoons does not provide more than 40 calories per RACC. 21 CFR 101.60(b)(2)(i)(A). The RACC established for pineapple is 140 g. See 21 CFR 101.12(b) (Table 2, Fruits and Fruit Juices, All other fruits fresh, canned, or frozen).

The nutrition information for both products states that there are 40 calories per 1 piece (80 g) of product; this equals about 70 calories per RACC. Therefore, under 21 CFR 101.13(i)(2), the products are required to carry a disclaimer adjacent to the claim, e.g., "Only 40 calories per serving, not a low calorie food". Because your products fail to bear the required disclaimer, they are misbranded within the meaning of section 403(r)(1)(A) of the Act.

The "Pineapple Bites" and "Pineapple Bites with Coconut" products are further misbranded within the meaning of section 403(k) of the Act [21 U.S.C. 343(k)] in that they contain the chemical preservatives ascorbic acid and citric acid but their labels fail to declare these preservatives with a description of their functions. 21 CFR 101.22. Further, the ingredients ascorbic acid and citric acid must be declared by their common or usual names. 21 CFR 101.4(a).

This letter is not intended to be an all-inclusive review of your firm's products and processes. It is your responsibility to ensure that your firm and your products comply with the Act and FDA, regulations. You should take prompt action to correct the violations. Failure to promptly correct these violations may result in regulatory action without further notice. For instance, we may take further action to seize your product or enjoin your firm from operating.

The letter also warned Chiquita regarding several other health issues the FDA found in Chiquita’s processing plants, specifically for its Romaine lettuce products.

SOURCE: U.S. Food and Drug Administration


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