Controversial new rules in the US on the labelling of trans fatty acids (TFAs) on food products continue to meet with opposition from food manufacturers. On Thursday the National Food Processors Association - the industry body - voiced its concerns suggesting education is a more effective tool than a 'label footnote'.
In July this year the US Department of Health & Human Services announced that new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules would dictate that by 2006 all food labels must list the amount of trans fatty acids. A measure sorely opposed by the industry.
Recent scientific evidence suggests that consumption of trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ('bad' cholesterol) levels that increase the risk of coronary heart disease. The findings have encouraged consumer groups to pressurise the food industry to cut trans fats in foods.
In comments to the FDA - being sought on nutrient content and health claims related to trans fat, as well as a possible footnote or disclosure statement - the NFPA said it opposed the creation of a nutrition label footnote on trans fat.
"Informing is not educating," said Dr. Rhona Applebaum, NFPA's executive vice president and chief science officer.
"It appears FDA's assumption is that one of the primary purposes of a footnote is to educate consumers. We respectfully disagree with this premise. Consumers must be educated about the need to restrict their intake of trans fats using tools more effective than a label footnote," she added.
Pressure from consumer groups has certainly been responsible for a handful of food manufacturers already voluntarily cutting the content of trans fats in foods. In July the UK arm of Nestle announced it would reformulate a number of brands - Toffee Crisp and Rolo - to remove or minimise the hydrogenated vegetable fat content.
US fast food giant McDonalds and Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, last year announced changes to TFAs. McDonalds said it would cook all French fries in oil with 48 per cent less trans fatty acids - although according to US consumer groups has since quietly reneged on its pledge - while Frito-Lay said it would remove trans fatty acids from its salty snacks, including Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos.
NFPA represents the $500 billion food processing industry.