Providing a comment today before the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the staff of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureaus of Consumer Protection and Economics and Office of Policy Planning expressed their support for development of a Daily Value (DV) for trans fat information on food labels. The DV for trans fat would be the recommended maximum amount of trans fat that a consumer should eat in a single day. According to Howard Beales, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, “the development of a DV for trans fat by the FDA would be an important step in providing consumers with information to make better informed food choices.”
The FDA previously had not developed a DV for trans fat because no method was available to determine an acceptable amount of trans fat to include in the diet. The Institute of Medicine, however, recently issued a report suggesting that the FDA could derive a DV by using menu modeling techniques to estimate minimal trans fat intake levels, and then evaluating the intake levels against achievable healthy diets. The FDA asked for comment concerning whether this method for deriving a DV was appropriate, and, if so, how DV information for trans fat should be presented on the food label.
The FTC staff comment supported the FDA’s efforts to develop a DV for trans fat.
The %DV listed on the Nutrition Facts Panel – the percentage of the DV of a nutrient in a single serving of a food – is important because it enables consumers to determine and compare products’ nutritional value in the context of their total diet. Moreover, stressed Todd Zywicki, Director of the FTC’s Office of Policy Planning, “The development of a daily value for trans fat will facilitate the FDA’s efforts to establish criteria for nutrient content claims and health claims regarding trans fats. These claims can play a critical role in informing consumers so that they can choose healthier foods.”
The FTC staff comment also addressed how DV information for trans fat should be presented on the food label. The %DVs for trans fat and saturated fat could be presented separately. In the alternative, the %DV information for trans fat and saturated fat could be combined, given that both trans fat and saturated fat increase cholesterol levels. Another option would be to provide the separate %DVs, with the combined %DV for saturated and trans fats on a separate line.
The FTC staff comment stated that “the optimal format for conveying information about trans fat depends on an assessment of the scientific evidence on the relative roles of trans and saturated fats.” Given that the science on the relative role of these two fats in increasing cholesterol still is developing, separate DV information “would seem more amenable to reflecting such scientific changes than a combined DV.” The FTC staff comment concluded, however, that, “if the FDA is confident that the two fats’ similar effects are more important than their differences, combining the DV for the two types of fats appears reasonable.” The comment recommended that the FDA conduct consumer research to determine which format is most effective in communicating to consumers the amount of saturated and trans fats in a food. Finally, the comment stated that the listing of a %DV on the Nutrition Facts Panel likely makes it unnecessary to have a footnote explaining the relationship between cholesterol-raising lipids and a healthy diet.
The Commission vote authorizing the staff to file the comment with the FDA was 5-0. The comment, which is now available on the FTC’s Web site, represents the views of the staffs of the FTC’s Bureaus of Consumer Protection and Economics and Office of Policy Planning, and is not necessarily those of the Commission or any individual commissioner.
Copies of the document 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.
(FTC File No. V040014)