Voices: Power Lunch

Power Lunch: FDA committee gets it right on fats

It no longer is prudent or acceptable for public health to advocate a "one-size-fits-all" dietary approach to protein, fat and carbohydrates

The Nutrition Subcommittee of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Food Advisory Committee met at the end of April in Washington to discuss two very critical issues for the food industry and public health: total fat disqualifying levels for cardiovascular risk reduction health claims and the scientific evidence to establish a Daily Value (DV) for trans fat.

During two days of discussion and public testimony, the subcommittee voted on whether or not to reconsider the total fat disqualifying level for heart health claims and if there is sufficient scientific evidence to establish a trans fat DV. Following its discussion, by majority vote, the subcommittee recommended total fat should not be a disqualifier for coronary heart disease health claims and stated that there is not sufficient scientific evidence to establish a trans fat DV. The subcommittee got it right on both points.

The subcommittee's reconsideration of the total fat disqualifying level for heart health claims was clearly warranted given the available scientific evidence. Under current rules, the health claim disqualifying level for total fat is predicated on a 2,000-calorie diet, in which 30 percent of the calories derive from fat.

As evidenced by the content of the report from the
Institute of Medicine's Dietary Reference Intake panel on macronutrients, the ongoing discussions of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee and the evolving peer-reviewed scientific literature, it no longer is prudent or acceptable for public health to advocate a "one size fits all" dietary approach to protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Existing national dietary guidelines advocate a diet "moderate in total fat." The ranges of fat intake and varying ratios of protein to fat to carbohydrate can promote health, weight maintenance or weight loss among the public -- assuming a wide variety of food choices to meet nutrient needs and balance between food intake and physical activity (negative energy balance needed for weight loss).

The reconsideration of the total fat disqualifying level for heart health claims is further supported by the fact FDA has already waived this criterion and replaced it with a disclosure statement for several heart-related health claims: the health claim for stanol and sterol esters, health claim for whole-grain foods moderate in fat, and the qualified health claims for walnuts and nuts.

The subcommittee also was justified in its decision against establishing a DV for trans fat in nutrition labeling, given the lack of sufficient supporting data. Insufficient data exist about current trans fat content of foods and food consumption patterns to make meaningful estimates to establish a DV. Studies of dietary intake of trans fat conclude that trans fat consumption is far below the consumption of saturated fat as a percentage of energy.

Mandatory label changes about trans fat must be carefully considered and coordinated because contextual information about trans fat is related to information about saturated fat and cholesterol, which in turn relates to the future prospect of DVs for other fatty acids.

On a separate question of whether trans fat has greater cardiovascular risk-promoting effects than saturated fat, the subcommittee concluded that the cardiovascular risk-promoting effects from trans fat are greater.

As FDA moves forward in its considerations of DVs for the nutrition label, the agency should not proceed in a piecemeal fashion with further required changes. A series of successive mandatory nutrition label revisions within the span of a few years could undermine consumer confidence in the label. Following the implementation of the trans fat quantitative declaration final rule, consideration of a DV for trans fat should be coordinated into the single set of changes to all DVs that FDA plans to initiate in the near future.

Additionally, there is a lack of data demonstrating that DVs are either understood or widely used by consumers in choosing or assembling foods for a dietary pattern. FDA should develop a strategy to educate consumers about DVs. This strategy should include placing a greater emphasis overall on education, utilizing tools such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid more effectively.



Robert Earl is senior director for nutrition policy at the National Food Processors Assn., Washington. E-mail him at rearl@nfpa-food.org.

More from this author...


Four Mistakes Food Processors Make in California

The Golden State has higher wage and hour practices than federal standards.


America's Most Wanted: Skilled Workers

A highly skilled workforce is necessary to meet 21st century manufacturing needs.


Fukushima in Our Food

Radiation from Japan is showing up in our food. Shouldn't we do something about it?


Food Processors: Are You Prepared for a Recall?

Tips from a food processor who went through one.


A Food Processor's Most Magnificent Deal

Prepare the next generation to take over the family business by buying it from you.


Changes in Food Advertising to Kids

Five years of industry self-regulation result in remarkable progress, says Better Business Bureau.


How Food Processors Can Avoid 'Natural' Disasters

With no federal guidance on how a product can be labeled as natural, how can companies compete while minimizing potential liability? There is no "one-size" answer, but several low-cost, effective solutions can help mitigate the risk.


Are New Alliances Indicative of Joint Venture Activity for Food and Beverage Industry?

PepsiCo-Ocean Spray Latin American strategic alliance may signal an uptick in food and beverage industry joint ventures.


Bans Are a Scapegoat, Not a Solution

National polls have found the majority of New Yorkers – and Americans – oppose banning the sale of soft drinks larger than 16 oz.


Nutella Lawsuit Highlights Marketing Risks

Class action settlement a warning to processors touting 'healthy' products.


Specialized Banks Support the Food Industry

Challenging times make financial understanding more critical.


Three Paths to a Better Bottom Line

Consider acquisitions, emerging markets and energy efficiency to increase your competitiveness.


Proposition 37: Food Transparency or Increased Organic Food Sales?

Contributor David TerMolen proposes California's upcoming food transparency measure is about increasing sales of organic food products at the expense of conventional foods.


Getting the Most From a Plant Sale

Too many companies rush to sell off equipment, cannibalizing the value of the real estate.


Marketplace Trends to Watch For in 2013: It's Time to Think Small

Beverage manufacturers and all food processors must embrace the new, smaller American household.


Food Becomes Target for Consumer Lawsuits

Lawyers who made their fortunes suing tobacco companies have set their sights on the food industry.


Organizations Can Survive Crises With a Senior Executive Team Culture

How to assemble a strong leadership team that makes you and your company look good even in bad times.


How Food and Beverage Manufacturers Can Avoid Class Action Litigation

The recent suits against energy drink makers are lessons for all food and beverage processors.


The Fading Effects of the 2012 Drought

Grain supplies will continue to be tight this summer until the fall harvest comes in.


Food Manufacturers: Are You Prepared for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

Given the complexities of the PPACA, employers need to keep the new health care law top of mind.