The makers of Lipton and Canada Dry were sent warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that the claims they've been making about the health benefits of green tea products are violating federal laws.
Unilever, which owns the Lipton brand, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, owner of Canada Dry, were told their assertions of the therapeutic power of their green tea drinks have crossed the line.
In both its advertisements and its web sites, Lipton claimed that its Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated tea could help those with cholesterol and heart problems. By doing so, the FDA said the company is advertising the tea as if it is a new drug -- a drug that the FDA has not approved.
"Your Lipton Green Tea 100% Natural Naturally Decaffeinated product is offered for conditions that are not amenable to self-diagnosis and treatment by individuals who are not medical practitioners; therefore, adequate directions for use cannot be written so that a layperson can use this drug safely for its intended purposes," Jennifer A. Thomas, the acting director of compliance at the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, wrote in the warning letter.
In addition, the FDA said the company's labeling and web site product promotion ran afoul of the law in its claims about its antioxidant properties and content.
Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale was the target of the FDA's warning to Dr. Pepper. At issue are claims made by the company that the drink was fortified with antioxidants and Vitamin C. The FDA said the amount of antioxidants that the company claims the drink contains isn't substantiated because the bulk of the antioxidants come from sources it does not recognize.
The agency also said the company should not have claimed the drink was fortified. "...the FDA does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages," the agency wrote.
"We received the FDA's letter today and are reviewing its contents," Dr. Pepper Snapple Group said in a written statement sent to Consumer Ally. "We look forward to working with the FDA and addressing the issues raised."
Unilever took a similar posture.
"I can confirm that we received a letter dated August 23, 2010 from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)," company spokesman Dean Mastrojohn told Consumer Ally in an email. "We are carefully reviewing the contents of the letter and committed to full compliance with the law."
The FDA has been battling for years over claims made by food and beverage companies over the health benefits of green tea -- including its use as a cancer preventative.
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