The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week re-launched the thorny debate on the use of trans fatty acids in food processing, and the labelling thereof, when it reopened the comment period for a proposed rule first published in the Federal Register in November, 1999.
The proposed rule sought to amend current FDA regulations on nutrition labelling in order to include the amount of trans fatty acids present in a food in the amount and percentage of Daily Value declared for saturated fatty acids.
The FDA writes this week that since the publication of the proposed rule, the National Academy of Sciences has issued a report - 'Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids'- that has failed to provide a dietary reference intake value for trans fat.
In response to this report, the FDA intends to take a more incremental approach and provide for mandatory declaration of trans fat content on a separate line within the Nutrition Facts panel.
In addition, the FDA has reopened the comment period in order to receive a comment on a new proposal to place a footnote statement on the label when trans fat is listed. The feedback from interested parties also extends to FDA propositions on when the new rules should be enforced, in particular for those food manufacturers who are keen to begin the labelling of trans fat content before publication of a final rule.
Written or electronic comments should be submitted by 16 December, 2002.
Food manufacturers, both in the US and Europe, are increasingly coming under pressure from consumer groups for the use of trans fatty acids, a type of fat linked to heart disease, in foods. If the proposed rule is cleared, the FDA move could well go some way towards appeasing major critics of trans fatty acids.