Regulatory Watch: Trans fatty acids findings could effect labeling policy

Over the summer a food and nutrition panel of the Institute of Medicine released a report linking trans fatty acid consumption with increased risk of heart disease. Since trans fats are found in small amounts in milk fat and dairy foods, dairy industry officials are concerned the report may influence FDA labeling policy. Trans fats have been found to increase LDL levels and decrease HDL levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease.

"While the exact impact of this report on FDA's decision to change food labels is unknown, there will likely be a requirement that trans fatty acids are included in the Nutrition Facts box, either as a separate line or as part of saturated fats," said the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA).

The panel issued its report to assist FDA in finalizing regulations that would require mandatory labeling of trans fatty acids. The proposed rule, issued nearly three years ago, requires trans fats to be declared in the Nutrition Facts panel as part of saturated fat. For foods that contained trans fat, an asterisk at the end of "saturated fat" would direct consumers to a footnote indicating how much of this were trans fats.

The proposed rule also allowed for a new nutrient content claim, "Trans Fat Free" and altered the requirements for foods to use other nutrient content claims. FDA is expected to issue a final rule early in 2003.

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