The US Food and Drug Administration has warned produce giant Chiquita Brands International that the company has broken rules governing labelling and health claims.

The FDA has said Chiquita's Pineapple Bites and Pineapple Bites with Coconut snack products have been "misbranded" with labels and health claims that violated US regulations.

In a letter to Chiquita president and CEO Fernando Aguirre, the FDA said labels on both products refer to the inclusion of antioxidants without mentioning which of the nutrients are in the recipe.

The FDA letter also claimed that the labels of both the snack lines highlighted the presence of "phytonutrients" in the product, which the regulator said contravened labelling rules.

"Phytonutrients are not nutrients for which a recommended daily intake or daily recommended value has been established. Therefore, nutrient content claims regarding "phytonutrients" are not authorised," the letter said.

The watchdog also pointed to the use of a claim used on labels that the two lines contain 'Only 40 Calories'. The FDA said the use of the claim contravened regulations.

The FDA also criticised Chiquita for not declaring that the products contain ascorbic acid and citric acid.

The regulator, which visited Chiquita's manufacturing site in the Californian town of Salinas during May and June, also said the company's use of the phrase 'made with coconut' on its Pineapple Bites with Coconut line broke rules.

"Our investigation determined that this product is made with a coconut flavour spray," the FDA wrote. The watchdog said Chiquita must comply with rules in labelling and could, for example, use the phrase 'coconut flavour'.

Chiquita has 15 days to respond to the FDA letter, dated 6 October, to tell the regulator what the company plans to do to meet regulations.