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FDA seizes orange juice in labeling battle

MINNEAPOLIS -- Federal authorities seized more than 12,000 gallons of Citrus Hill orange juice Wednesday amidst charges that the juice was falsely labeled as 'fresh,' the Food and Drug Administration said.

'Use of the word 'fresh' on these (Citrus Hill) products is false and misleading, and it is confusing to consumers. Today's action will send a clear message that the FDA will not tolerate such violations of the law,' FDA Commissioner David Kessler told a conference in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

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A U.S. marshal seized about 2,000 cases of Citrus Hill juice -- each containing six 1-gallon cartons or 12 half-gallon cartons -- in a Minneapolis-area warehouse Wednesday evening after a federal judge authorized the action, said Jeff Nesbit, an FDA spokesman in Washington,

Nesbit emphasized that the action against Citrus Hill, marketed by Procter & Gamble Co. of Cincinnati, 'does not involve threat to public health.'

'The seizure action was initiated after Procter & Gamble failed to heed repeated warnings by the FDA that the use of the term 'fresh' for processed products violated long-standing FDA policy on food labeling,' Nesbit said.

The seizure involves two orange juice products sold in cartons: Citrus Hill Fresh Choice Pure Squeezed 100 percent Orange Juice from Concentrate and Citrus Hill Fresh Choice Classic Style Pure Squeezed 100 percent Orange Juice from Concentrate.

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Both are manufactured in Frostproof, Fla., by Citrus Hill Manufacturing Co., and are marketed by P&G.

Since 1969, it has been the FDA's policy that manufacturers cannot use the term 'fresh' for any food that has been heated or chemically processed, Nesbit said.

The FDA sent P&G a warning letter Jan. 25 saying that the labeling and promotion of the Citrus Hill products as fresh violated the law and it should stop those practices.

The seizure involves only Citrus Hill juice stored in Super Valu Stores Inc.'s warehouse in the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, Nesbit said. The site was chosen for the action because of the large amount of Citrus Hill juice stored there, he said.

The juice will be detained at the warehouse pending the outcoming of further hearings, Nesbit added.

P&G, headquartered in Cincinnati, emphasized there were no concerns about the product's quality or wholesomeness.

'We continue to believe our Citrus Hill packages -- both frozen and chilled -- are properly labeled, and we have strong consumer evidence to support this,' the company said in a statement. 'Nonetheless, we realize there has been a lack of clarity on the use of the term 'fresh' on food packaging. We had expected the FDA would definitively address this broad issue through new and clearer rules for use of the term 'fresh.''

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