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.

Frito-Lay to Make Snacks without Trans Fat

I first heard about this on NPR news during my drive to work yesterday, but I've finally been able to find an online citation as well. From MSNBC, “Frito-Lay to make reduced-fat snacks”:

Frito-Lay said that in early 2003 it will eliminate hydrogenated oils and convert to trans fat-free corn oil in Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos. The company said the change will not compromise the taste of the snacks. […]

The company, the largest unit of Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo Inc., said it will launch Lay’s Reduced Fat chips and Cheetos Reduced Fat snacks in the near future. […]

The coming-addition of reduced-fat Lays and Cheetos is a nice bonus, though I’m especially pleased about their decision to switch to non-trans-fat oils. Maybe it’s becauase it’ll soon be required to list trans-fat on labels? ;)

Trans Fat on Labels

I’m pleased that the FDA has chosen to require including trans fat on food labels. Trans fat &mdash “about as bad as bad gets” — is the kind of fat that is processed so that it will stay solid at room temperature:

Trans fat is very effective in keeping cakes moist, cookies fresh and crunchy, and crackers crisp. It is also one of the worst things you can eat! According to many nutrition experts — and now a long-awaited federal report from the National Academy of Sciences�trans fat in food is about as bad as bad gets.

So, it looks like the FDA will require trans fat on labels by “FY 2003”.

A National Academy of Sciences’ (NAS’) Institute of Medicine report confirming that trans fatty acids contribute to heart disease and obesity has prompted the FDA to hasten efforts to require trans fat on food labels by the end of fiscal year 2003, according to an FDA official. The long-anticipated July 10 report — which likely will form the backbone of FDA’s trans fat labeling policy — concluded that there is no safe level of trans fat in a diet and urged consumers to minimize its consumption.

(See also this MetaFilter thread on trans fatty acids)