Why Juicy Juice Won't Make You Smarter

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Image Courtesy of Marion Nestle


I've been fretting about the immunity and brain claims on Nestlé's Juicy Juice for quite some time now, but completely missed the FDA's December 4 warning letter about them. Thanks to Hemi Weingarten at Fooducate for keeping track of such things.

If you give these products a moment's thought, you can quickly figure out that feeding DHA- or antioxidant-fortified juice drinks to kids is unlikely to have much effect on how smart they are or whether they can resist colds or swine flu. But never underestimate the power of food marketers. Adding a little DHA or a few antioxidants to juices sells products. Health claims, as I keep pointing out, are about marketing, not health.

In warning the company to cease and desist, however, The FDA did not take on the health issues. Instead, it invoked labeling regulations:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed the labeling for several Nestlé Juicy Juice products...Based on our review, we have concluded that these products are misbranded.... because [their] labeling includes unauthorized nutrient content claims. Except for statements that describe the percentage of a vitamin or mineral in relation to a Reference Daily Intake (RDI), a nutrient content claim cannot be made for a food intended for use by infants and children less than 2 years of age....On October 30, 2009. we also reviewed your website....The labeling found on your website makes an additional unauthorized nutrient content claim, which further misbrands the product. The website claims that Juicy Juice Brain Development Fruit Juice Beverage is "naturally lower in sugar"...[but] no nutrient content claims can be made for a food intended specifically for use by infants and children less than 2 years of age unless specifically permitted by FDA regulations.

Additionally, we have reviewed the labeling of your Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Orange Tangerine and Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Grape products. These products are misbranded...because their labels are misleading. The label of the Orange Tangerine product is designed to imply that the product is 100% orange/tangerine juice, and the label of the Grape product is designed to imply that product is 100% grape juice...neither orange/tangerine juice nor grape juice is the predominant juice in the products....

Nestlé (alas, no relation) is the largest food company in the world with $102 billion in sales last year. It should know better.

Just for the record, the misbranded products are still displayed on the Juicy Juice website.

The FDA also warned Nestlé that its Boost Kids Essentials products are misbranded. Why? Because their labeling does not follow the rules for medical foods, those aimed at alleviating specific conditions--in this case "failure to thrive." Oops. The Boost Kids Essentials Web site is now under revision.

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Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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