Health regulators have warned units of Nestle and more than a dozen other foodmakers over nutritional claims made for baby food, nuts and other products on food labels and product websites, according to letters made public on Wednesday.
Most of the letters accuse the food companies of overstating or misstating the nutritional value of their products.
In one of the letters, issued February 22 to baby food maker Gerber, a unit of Nestle, the FDA cited issues with Gerber 2nd Foods Carrot and Graduates Fruit Puffs products. It said their labeling includes unauthorized nutrient content claims.
The labels claim that the foods are Healthy as Fresh, an Excellent Source ... of Vitamin A and have No Added Sugar, according to the agency letter. These regulations do not allow the claim for products specifically intended for children under two years of age, the FDA wrote.
The FDA issued a similar warning to Beech-Nut, a unit of Swiss company Hero Group, the same day.
(For a list of the companies that received warning letters and links to those letters, see http://tinyurl.com/yj67azw.)
The warnings come as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to push for new package labeling to make it easier for people to understand the nutritional content of food.
The FDA plans to issue draft guidelines for nutritional labeling and to work with the food industry on a new labeling system, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in an open letter to the food industry.
The examples in the warnings were not indicative of labeling practices in the entire food industry, Hamburg said on Wednesday.
The agency also warned Nestle, Gerber and other companies about similar nutritional claims made on company websites.
Others receiving warning letters include snack food company Diamond Foods Inc -- relating to the health claims for the omega-3 fatty acids in the company's walnuts -- and Spectrum Organic Products Inc, a unit of Hain Celestial Group, over labeling for its vegetable shortening.
Nestle's Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream unit was warned over labeling of certain products.
A Nestle spokesman said the company was cooperating with the FDA but does not comment on pending regulatory inquiries.
Diamond expects to be able to make any changes required to packaging and the website expeditiously and with minimal expense, it said in a statement.
Hain and Beech-Nut could not immediately be reached for comment.
The FDA wants the companies to immediately correct the products' labeling and respond to the agency within 15 days from the day of the letter.
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman and Susan Heavey, editing by Maureen Bavdek, Tim Dobbyn and Robert MacMillan)