On Wednesday, June 16, TODAY aired an investigative report about the accuracy of labels on frozen diet meals. Below are statements in response from representatives of Lean Cuisine, Weight Watchers Smart Ones and Healthy Choice.
From Roz O'Hearn, Lean Cuisine spokesperson:
Our Lean Cuisine team works diligently to have our labels on the outside of the package accurately reflect the goodness of the meal on the inside.
As you must know from your research, food nutrients vary naturally. (As an example, growing conditions as well as soil composition influence vegetable nutrition.) Because of this natural variability, label values -- by law -- may vary up to 20% (under or over). That's what you found in your tests. You note that each individual product was tested at least twice. That's a careful approach -- but it doesn't follow U.S. regulatory guidelines, which we must observe. When we validate nutrition information, we check the nutrition values repeatedly as new recipes are made. And then, we test not one or two samples--as your lab did--but instead many samples. This is called "composite testing "and follows established U.S. regulatory agency protocol. That's how we arrive at the numbers which appear in the nutrition facts panel on the package. Finally, to make it easy for our consumers to plan which Lean Cuisine items they'd like to add to their meal plans, we also post the nutrition facts for every product on www.LeanCuisine.com.
From Jessica Jackson, Weight Watchers Smart Ones spokesperson: As a leader in the frozen nutritional category, Weight Watchers Smart Ones is committed to offering high-flavor, calorie-controlled meals conducive for a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. The nutritional information on Smart Ones boxes represents an average value taken from multiple samples in accordance with government regulations and is consistent with the FDA’s standards for variance. We were surprised by the findings, which are based on only one sample. While we are skeptical that the results are accurate, we’ve commenced an internal audit of the Sweet & Sour Chicken entree to understand if such a wide variance in fat content versus the nutritional information could have occurred.
From Christine Cotter, Healthy Choice spokesperson: Healthy Choice meals consist of agricultural ingredients such as vegetables, grains, and meats, and the levels of naturally occurring nutrients can and do vary in those ingredients. An individual entrée may contain levels of nutrients slightly different than those listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Nutrition facts are derived from routine testing of representative samples of entrees, a process outlined and regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and USDA. The regulations allow for a reasonable variance of naturally occurring nutrients, up to 20% of that listed on the package. Additional consumer information from the FDA about the Nutrition Facts panel is available at http://www.fda.gov/Food/LabelingNutrition/ConsumerInformation/default.htm.