Egg Producers Deceive Consumers, Violate Law with Bogus Omega-3 Claims
FDA should enforce its own rules, according to CSPI
WASHINGTON—Consumers who shell out more money for eggs boasting of omega-3 content and promoting heart health should know that those claims are not all they’re cracked up to be, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
Today CSPI urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to stop seven egg producers from implying that their eggs can reduce the risk of heart disease. In fact, says CSPI, egg producers should not be making heart-healthy claims, because the FDA specifically prohibits such claims on eggs and other foods high in cholesterol or saturated fat.
“Egg producers have used the omega-3 buzz word to bilk health-conscious consumers—and so far they’ve gotten away with it,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “The FDA should start enforcing its own rules, instead of letting companies hoodwink shoppers with a myriad of misleading and downright inaccurate claims on labels, ads, and Web sites.”
Egg producers take advantage of consumers’ limited knowledge of the different types of omega-3s. While the FDA permits claims for a possible reduced risk of heart disease linked to two kinds of omega-3s, DHA and EPA, the agency does not allow such claims for other omega-3s. CSPI commissioned a lab test that found that less than half of the advertised 350 mg of omega-3s in a Land O Lakes egg came from EPA and DHA. Yet, omega-3 eggs generally cost twice as much as regular eggs.
“The most beneficial omega-3 fatty acids come from fish, fish oil, and algae,” said CSPI senior staff attorney Ilene Heller. “Even if eggs had the ‘right’ kind of omega-3s, they still contain significant levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, which increase the risk of heart disease.”
Even the eggs with the most DHA and EPA contain no more of those omega-3s than the amount in one and a half teaspoons of salmon, the richest source of omega-3s, according to CSPI.
Products named in the CSPI complaint include:
• Land O Lakes claims that “omega-3 All-Natural Eggs” are a “good source of heart-healthy nutrition” despite the fact that FDA has not defined the term “good source” for omega-3s and that the eggs contain too much saturated fat and cholesterol to meet FDA’s definition of healthy.
• Eggland’s Best uses unapproved nutrient content claims for omega-3s on its carton and on its Web site. In addition, the company claims that its eggs have 25 percent less saturated fat than regular eggs. But that difference is less than half a gram—an amount that the FDA considers trivial for purposes of nutrition labeling.
• Safeway Specialty 3 Eggs misleadingly boasts “100 mg of omega-3s” even though the FDA has not set standards for such omega-3 claims. In addition, the principal source of omega-3s in the hens’ diets is likely not a source that may be associated with heart benefits.
• Gold Circle Farms claims that its eggs contain “450 mg of omega-3s.” The claims are based on two eggs even though the official FDA serving size for eggs is one egg.
• The Country Hen illegally claims “the difference is an egg that is simply healthy” even though the product does not meet regulatory requirements for “healthy,” and also makes its claims based on two eggs.
• Full Spectrum Farms boasts that its product has “30 mg” of unspecified omega-3s even though one ordinary egg, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, contains 37 mg of omega-3s, 20 mg of which are DHA and EPA.
• Giving Nature asserts that the company feeds its hens flax seed which “has been known to hold high levels of DHA omega-3.” But, according to the Flax Council of Canada and others, the omega-3s that FDA considers healthful (DHA and EPA) are not found in plants such as flax seed.
Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Ariana Stone (astone[at]cspinet.org).