Delays in Trans Fat Labeling

The FDA was all set to require trans fat labeling on food products, but the food industry is dragging its feet.

Accustomed to food-labeling regulations for other nutrients, the food industry is resigned to accepting an FDA proposal requiring them to give the actual amount of trans fat, or trans fatty acids, on the label of a food product. But an additional feature of the FDA proposal is leaving a bad taste in the industry’s mouth — a 10-word footnote on nutrition labels that would read: “Intake of trans fats should be as low as possible.” […]

Some food industry groups have even “threatened to sue over their First Amendment commercial-speech rights if the footnote becomes law”, but I don’t think that the footnote is unreasonable.

[…] [S]cientists at the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine have found [that] any consumption of trans fats increases the risk of heart disease. So, the FDA reasons, if less trans fat is better, or no daily minimum is recommended, why not have food labels say just that? Thus its proposal for the footnote on food labels. […]

Trans fat not only raises bad cholesterol, the stuff that increase the risk of clogged arteries, but also lowers good cholesterol, which actually reduces risk of clogged arteries. While there are some naturally occurring trans fats in meat and dairy products, most are created when food makers add hydrogen to vegetable oil. The process, called hydrogenation, makes the oil more solid at room temperature. […]

It makes sense to me :-/. But, due to this quibbling, a rule on trans fat labeling that was initially planned for early-2003 is now expected no earlier than summertime. In the meantime, if you’re looking to avoid trans fat — called “as bad as it gets” by some — be on the lookout for “partially hydrogenated ##” on food labels — that’s all trans fat.

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