Federal regulators are challenging well-known baby food maker Gerber on claims that its Good Start Gentle infant formula can prevent or reduce allergies.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it was suing Gerber to make the company remove the claims from its formula labels and advertisements. The FTC alleged that by making the claims the company was misleading consumers by suggesting its formula was the first to meet government approval for reducing the risk of allergies.
According to the lawsuit, Gerber petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009 to link its use of hydrolyzed whey proteins to reducing atopic dermatitis, a skin rash known as baby eczema. The FDA agreed, but only if Gerber made it clear that there was “little scientific evidence” that the whey proteins reduced the rash.
In 2011, packages of Gerber Good Start Gentle formula added wording to its label suggesting it was the first formula approved by the FDA to reduce the risk of a baby developing allergies in general. The FTC said that without qualifiers, the labels could be interpreted to mean that the formula could prevent an infant from developing life-threatening food or environmental allergies.
“Parents trusted Gerber to tell the truth about the health benefits of its formula, and the company’s ads failed to live up to that trust,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection. “Gerber didn’t have evidence to back up its claim that Good Start Gentle formula reduces the risk of babies developing their parents’ allergies.”
Gerber, which also partners with Nestle Infant Nutrition, says it has done no wrong, adding that its formula can help prevent baby eczema, a statement the company says it has been authorized to feature on its product.
Gerber’s statement suggested that it would not settle the case, which means a district court in New Jersey, where Gerber’s headquarters is located, will likely decide the case.
Source: USA Today