The Commission has authorized the staff to file comments with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning trans fatty acids in nutrition labeling, consumer research to consider nutrient content and health claims, and possible footnote or disclosure statements. The comment, which is available on the FTC’s Web site as a link to this press release, was filed at the FDA’s request, in accordance with the comment period for the agency’s final Rule on this subject. The final Rule requires the manufacturers of foods and some dietary supplements to list trans fats separately on the Nutrition Facts panel, beginning in 2006. Trans fats will be listed immediately under saturated fat. The amount of trans fat is to be listed without a percent daily value (DV) or an accompanying footnote statement.
According to the comment, the FTC staff supports the FDA’s Trans Fat Final Rule, which allows more, truthful information about fats in food labeling, because consumers will benefit from knowing more about the role of trans fats in their diet. In addition, the staff supports the FDA’s solicitation of consumer research before it mandates a footnote disclosure to accompany the trans fat listing on the Nutrition Facts panel. Such research may indicate the extent to which consumers might interpret the differing treatment of trans fats, as compared to the treatment of saturated fats on the panel, as indicating that these fats have different effects on health. The staff further urges the FDA to authorize nutrient content claims, such as “Reduced Trans Fat” and Trans Fat Free” descriptors, that can help consumers make healthier dietary choices and provide incentives for manufacturers to reduce trans fact in their products.
Finally, the staff encourages the FDA to approve specific health claims explaining the likely links between trans fats and heart disease, in addition to using its enforcement discretion to allow marketers to make truthful, non-misleading health claims about trans fats. Staff also suggests that, in gathering information relevant to setting levels of other nutrients in a product that would disqualify a health claim based on the amount of trans fats it contains, the FDA include research on whether a disclosure of the amount of these nutrients might be sufficient to prevent consumers from being misled.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the comments with the FDA was 5-0. The comments represent the views of the Commission’s Bureaus of Economics and Consumer Protection and its Office of Policy Planning. (FTC File No. V030017; staff contact is Maureen K. Ohlhausen, Office of Policy Planning, 202-326-2632.)
Copies of the documents mentioned in this release are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. Call toll-free: 1-877-FTC-HELP.