Food manufacturers can claim that products where unsaturated fatty acids have replaced saturated fats offer a reduced risk of heart disease, said the FDA.
The FDA approved the health claim after Frito-Lay, the convenient foods division of PepsiCo, submitted a notification to apply the claim to foods with a total unsaturated fat content of 80 percent or more of total fat.
The final claim approved by the FDA states that "replacing saturated fat with similar amounts of unsaturated fats may reduce the risk of heart disease. To achieve this benefit, total daily calories should not increase."
Frito-Lay said it will use the claim on vegetable oils, spreads and shortenings, though it is not clear which specific products will carry the claim.
According to the notification, originally made by Frito-Lay in January, the claim can also be applied to crackers, salad dressings, salads, sauces and dips, and grain, vegetable and fruit-based snacks.
The claim was based on the 1989 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report entitled Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk.
This stated that "clinical and animal studies provide firm evidence that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids when substituted for saturated fatty acids result in a lowering of serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and usually also some lowering of HDL cholesterol levels."
"Clinical studies indicate that substitution of monounsaturated for saturated fatty acids results in a reduction of serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol without a reduction in HDL cholesterol."
The topic of saturated fats has become front-page news in the US over the past few years as food companies bow to public pressure to use healthier oils in their products.
Frito-Lay, for example, pledged last year to reduce the saturated fat, and increase the mono- and polyunsaturated fats in its leading potato chip brands, Lay's and Ruffles, by more than 50 percent by switching to NuSun sunflower oil.
"We are removing nearly 60 million pounds of saturated fat annually from the American diet, while keeping the same great taste," said Rocco Papalia, senior vice president, research and development, Frito-Lay North America.
Frito-Lay brands also include Fritos, Doritos and Tostitos, as well as Rold Gold pretzels, Grandma's cookies and Cracker Jack popcorn.