WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal authorities have seized bottles and drums of elderberry juice concentrate from a Kansas winery, contending that the company's claims of its benefits for treating various diseases make the product a drug.
The civil forfeiture complaint, which only names the juice as the sole defendant, was filed last week and unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court. The Food and Drug Administration is seeking condemnation of the product in possession of its maker, Wyldewood Cellars of Peck.
The government contends the juice concentrate is an unapproved and misbranded drug because the winery claims it is used to treat diseases such as the flu, cancer and AIDS.
"Products with unapproved disease claims are dangerous because they may cause consumers to delay or avoid legitimate treatments, Dara Corrigan, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a news release. "The FDA is committed to protecting consumers from unapproved products on the market."
An affidavit filed in federal court contends the FDA sent Wyldewood Cellars a warning in 2006 after receiving a consumer complaint over the claims. The FDA says the company continued to make the same claims on its website and at its retail outlets.
"Kansas consumers should be aware that Wyldewood Cellars has been under notice since 2006 that its claims for the medicinal powers of elderberry juice are unproven and violate federal law," U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said in an email.
Wyldewood Cellars owner John Brewer told The Associated Press that his company changed the labels as the FDA had requested in 2006.
"We responded to their notice and we thought everything was fine, so this takes us totally by surprise," Brewer said.
Authorities did not confiscate anything, but just sequestered it so they cannot sell any of it until the issue is resolved. He said his attorney is now talking to their attorney to find out exactly what is the problem.
"You think you are doing things correctly, and there hasn't been any word, and all of a sudden you get this," Brewer said.