The push is on for more specific fat labels

Nutrition activists are pressing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a proposed new rule requiring food manufacturers to include the amount of trans fatty acid, or "trans fat," on food labels. The proposed rule would require the amount of total saturated fat now listed on labels and in advertisements to include trans fat. Pressure on FDA increased in May when the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) tightened its health guidelines, warning that, "trans fatty acids are another LDL-raising fat that should be kept to a low intake." Among those pushing for the new rule is Elaine Turner, assistant professor of human nutrition at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, who argues that consumers trying to limit their daily saturated fat intake are getting misleading information from food labels. Food manufacturers generally oppose implementation of the new rules, saying there is no conclusive proof that trans fat has the same effect on cholesterol production as saturated fats. A spokeswoman for FDA says implementation of a final rule on trans fat is "a priority this calendar year."

FDA reorganizes approvals office

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reorganizing and renaming its Office of Pre-market Approval. From now on, it will be known as the Office of Food Additive Safety. The food processing industry generally welcomed the change, saying it will promote efficiency and effectiveness in a process that was formerly bureaucratic and cumbersome. "The reorganization represents common-sense streamlining, basing the Office's functions on the actual applications they receive. It brings an outdated system into the present and promises to help improve the management of -- and thereby the speed of review for -- new products coming onto the marketplace," said Dr. Rhona Applebaum, Executive Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs for the National Food Processors Association.

Manufacturers, government concur on allergen labeling

Food manufacturers and the federal government appear to be on the same page when it comes to food allergen labeling guidelines, raising the possibility that voluntary action may head off new regulations in that area. Joseph Levitt, Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, met recently with a food industry group and praised its efforts to arrive at a standard way to warn consumers about allergens contained in food products. The Food Allergy Issues Alliance has drafted guidelines to identify the eight major allergens that cause 90 percent of all food allergic reactions. "The alliance's plan complements FDA's food allergen guidance and will help food processors inform food-allergic consumers about the presence of the eight major allergens in their products," Levitt said in a letter to the National Food Processors Association, a leading participant in the alliance. The eight major food allergens, which have been estimated to cause 90 percent of all food allergic reactions, are crustaceans, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts and wheat.