When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected California’s Tomaso’s Specialty Foods last December, the investigators left with a fistful of labels from the Blue Lake company’s products.

In an April 18 warning letter, the FDA charges that Tomaso’s brand products are misbranded because they incorrectly deal with food allergens, ingredient statements, manufacturer information, and have other problems that fall into the miscellaneous category.

For example, Tomaso’s label for its classic Caesar dressing fails to identify ingredients that are common food allergens such as egg, milk, fish, and soy, the warning letter says.

Tomaso’s labels for its classic Caesar dressing and Black Olive Basil Garlic Sauce are misbranded because ingredients were not properly listed, the FDA writes.

“We acknowledge your response letter dated January 20, 2011 which states you intend to make corrections to your product labels and provide proposed revised statements,” the warning letter continues.  “You also provided hand-written proposed revised ingredient statements to the inspectors during the inspection.”

“However as explained below, the revised ingredient statements for the products discussed here are inadequate because they do not comply with the Act and its regulations.  Your proposed label for the Classic Caesar Dressing product does not list the sub-ingredients for Dijon mustard.  Your proposed revised labels for the Black Olive Fresh Basil Garlic Pasta Sauce product do not include the sub-ingredients for kalamata olives or capers.”

FDA says food companies must list ingredients in descending order on the label.

Tomaso’s was also accused of failing to list basic nutritional informal such as the trans fat content and sugar, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and calories. Further, the FDA noted, the company lists its manufacturing location as Arcata, CA, not Blue Lake, CA, where it is located.

FDA also said Tomaso’s was also improperly using a bar code and the word “fresh.”

Meanwhile, an April 20 warning letter from FDA went to Milwaukee-based Diaspora Tea & Herb Co. over claims found on the company’s website.

Diaspora is making “therapeutic claims” that promote its products for the “cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,” according to FDA.

Some examples include stating that:

— “Ginger is used in food and drinks as a preventive medicine against colds and flu”


— “The powerful antioxidants found in tea are believed to help prevent cancer and lower cholesterol …”

— “Recent research suggests consuming 5-8 cups of Pu-erh Tea each day can reduce cholesterol and plaque of the arteries.”

— “Regular consumption of Oolong Tea is linked to the reduction of plaque in the arteries, reduction of cholesterol and lowering of blood sugar.”

— “Oolong Tea is …prized for its cholesterol reducing…”

FDA says that by making such statements in association with specific products, Diaspora is making what amounts to new drug claims and that requires the agency approval based on scientific data.

Diaspora is also making improper nutrient content claims, FDA says, such as saying its green tea is “high” in amino acids or its Pu-erh Tea is “rich in” tea Polyphenois and Theaflavin.

Tomaso’s and Diaspora were both given 15 working days to correct violations and respond to FDA.