FDA to Diamond Foods: “Your Walnuts Are Drugs”

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Just recently I posted about the Feds crashing a Kansas winery to seize the illegal contraband (“drugs”) being produced by the company: elderberry wine. Come to find out that prior to that the FDA had gone after Diamond Foods for its claims that its walnuts are good for overall health. Here is the full letter sent from the FDA to Diamond Foods. A snippet:

Based on claims made on your firm’s website, we have determined that your walnut products are promoted for conditions that cause them to be drugs because these products are intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease.

This part of the FDA letter is predictably curious:

The back of your product label also bears the following statement: “The omega-3 in walnuts can help you get the proper balance of fatty acids your body needs for promoting and maintaining heart health. In fact, according to the Food and Drug Administration, supportive but not conclusive research shows that eating 1.5 oz of walnuts per day, as part of a low saturated fat and low cholesterol diet, and not resulting in increased caloric intake, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. Please refer to nutrition information for fat content and other details about the nutritional profile of walnuts.” Although FDA exercises enforcement discretion over the last two sentences of this statement, which meet the criteria for a qualified health claim for walnuts and coronary heart disease, the last two sentences read in conjunction with the first sentence makes the entire statement an unauthorized health claim.

An article by William Faloon in Life Extension magazine (he’s a co-founder of the foundation) points out that “the FDA has no problem allowing the Frito-Lay® website to state the following” about its “heart healthy” snacks:

“Frito-Lay® snacks start with real farm-grown ingredients. You might be surprised at how much good stuff goes into your favorite snack. Good stuff like potatoes, which naturally contain vitamin C and essential minerals. Or corn, one of the world’s most popular grains, packed with thiamin, vitamin B6, and phosphorous—all necessary for healthy bones, teeth, nerves and muscles.

“And it’s not just the obvious ingredients. Our all-natural sunflower, corn and soybean oils contain good polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, which help lower total and LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and maintain HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels, which can support a healthy heart. Even salt, when eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, is essential for the body.”

You can see it for yourself on the Frito-Lay website. (Thanks to Mickey Propadovich for the tip.) A few years ago, the Life Extension foundation covered the FDA’s attack on the cherry industry for stating that the fruit contained beneficial anti-oxidants. Twenty-nine companies were ordered by the FDA to stop making health claims regarding their cherries, otherwise the FDA would designate their cherries as drugs, meaning the FDA would have to raid the warehouses and seize the “untested drugs.” Meanwhile, the FDA has allowed General Mills to put this on its boxes of processed carbohydrate-sodium mix (known as Cheerios):

7:44 pm on July 18, 2011