Seems “green tea-adjacent” doesn't really count. The Food and Drug Administration has told the makers of Canada Dry ginger ale and Lipton tea to stop making unsubstantiated nutritional claims about their green tea-flavored beverages, the Associated Press reports.
In a warning letter sent Aug. 30th, the FDA takes issue with the labeling of Canada Dry Sparkling Green Tea Ginger Ale. The agency released a similar letter Aug. 23rd to Unilever Inc. over labeling for its Lipton Green Tea. The letter to Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, which makes Canada Dry, states that the agency “does not consider it appropriate to fortify snack foods such as carbonated beverages.”
Adding vitamins and nutrients to food products, including beverages, seems to be the latest trend to make them more appealing to consumers. But it helps if your product actually contains what you claim. According to the FDA, the Canada Dry ginger ale does not meet federal requirements to carry the claim that the drink is “enhanced with 200 mg of antioxidants from green tea and vitamin C.” The ingredients in Canada Dry's product “are not nutrients with recognized antioxidant activity” as determined by FDA regulations.
In terms of the Lipton Green Tea, the FDA has problems with a company website that mentions four studies that showed a cholesterol-lowering effect of tea. It is not kosher to suggest that Lipton tea is designed to treat or prevent disease, according to the agency. (The FDA generally endorses health claims on foods only after government researchers have verified that the products help prevent actual disease.) The agency also takes issue with antioxidant labeling claims for the tea, which do not follow federal guidelines.
In the letters, the FDA asks executives from the companies to respond to the citations within 15 days with an outline of their plans for addressing the problems. The requests are not legally binding, but the agency can take companies to court if they are ignored.
Dr. Pepper Snapple Group said in a statement that the company looks “forward to working with the FDA and addressing the issues raised.” Unilever released a similar response.
With nutrient-enriched beverages having grown into a multibillion-dollar business (acai-infused vodka, anyone?), the FDA has begun cracking down on food companies that overstate the benefits of their products.