| Comment Record|
Mr. Steven Grover ||
2002-12-13 16:26:36 |
National Restaurant Association |
Food Industry |
| Comments for FDA General |
1. General Comments
December 16, 2002
FDA Docket Clerk
Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852
Dear Sir or Madam:
The National Restaurant Association, founded in 1919, is the leading trade association for the nation’s $408 billion restaurant industry comprised of over 858,000 restaurant locations. Our 52,000 member companies represent more than 254,000 individual full-service restaurants, quick-service units and cafeterias, institutions, hospitals, universities and military clubs.
The National Restaurant Association would like to comment on the Proposed Rule: Reopening of the Comment Period for Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims, Docket No. 94P-0036, Federal Register, Volume 67, Number 221, pages 69171-69172. This proposed rule would require an asterisk (or other symbol) in the % DV column for trans fat when it is listed, that it is tied to a similar symbol at the bottom of the Nutrition Facts box and that is followed by the statement “Intake of trans fat should be as low as possible.” The restaurant industry believes that consumers benefit from meaningful nutrition information in making informed food choices. However, we oppose the proposal to include the aforementioned statement on the Nutrition Facts Panel of packaged foods. Our position is based upon the belief that this change does not provide meaningful or useful information to the general consumer.
We believe that the labeling of trans fat may have a potentially negative effect on consumers’ perceptions about foods because a simple label cannot adequately convey necessary information about this type of fat and dietary implications. The major sources of trans fatty acids are hard margarines and shortening used in frying and in preparing baked goods and other processed foods. However, trans fatty acids are found naturally in the body fat of ruminants such as cattle and sheep, and even in certain plants. The current intake of trans fat is estimated to be about 8 to 13 grams per day, or only about 2 to 4% of energy intake. Therefore, simple labeling of foods with trans fat levels offer little meaningful information to consumers who already consume trans fats at low levels. Further reduction can be easily accomplished by total dietary fat reductions.
The proposed claims pertaining to the level of trans fatty acids in food products may be confusing and inappropriate for consumers. The current dietary advice from the federal government includes guidelines to eat a variety of foods, and choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Since the public’s knowledge and understanding about trans fat is limited at best, we believe a sole statement about the level of trans fat would be misinterpreted as a warning. Clearly it is not necessary to avoid all trans fat consumption as one would avoid a toxic chemical, the real issue is balance. The proposal clearly does not give enough information for consumers to determine all the facts.
The recommendation for a proposed footnote is problematic for several reasons. First, this footnote may be perceived by consumers as a warning label and may create unintended consumer behavior. The statement does not address the larger issue of lowering consumption of the mix of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Rather, it suggests that trans fats are to be singled out and completely avoided. The term “Low as possible” is most likely to be interpreted as 0, again clearly overstating the significance of reasonable trans fat dietary reduction. Finally, the footnote proposal omits the qualifying phrase included in the Institute of Medicine Macronutrient Report, “while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.” Without the relevant facts consumer miss-interpretation of the footnote is virtually assured.
The proposed footnote may drive consumers to products higher in saturated fats than other products with a lower combined total of trans and saturates. The Institute of Medicine report treats saturated fat and cholesterol no differently with respect to the Upper Level concept as well as the recommendation to keep consumption as low as possible, yet FDA is singling out trans for this footnote, and thereby special consumer attention. In effect, this footnote will take consumer focus away from the widely accepted advice of lowering total intake of saturated fat. The stigma attached to this footnote may push food processors toward the use of more saturated fat to replace trans fat in order to maintain product appeal and mean consumer demand for organoleptic and convenience characteristics.
Finally, we believe that the proposed footnote labeling requirement is premature at this time. The FDA has commissioned a second IOM study to make recommendations as to how to integrate the findings of the macronutrient report into the regulatory policy. The current proposed footnote approach represents a piecemeal approach to implementing DRIs and is premature in light of the IOM study, Use of Dietary Reference Intakes in Nutrition Labeling.
Clearly the public needs more education to understand key concepts about diet and the role of specific fats. Guidelines from nutrition professionals include the concepts of moderation and balancing food choices. Premature labeling requirements backed by poorly developed science may do more to misinform consumers and have a potentially adverse impact on products that bear claims or brand names based on the level of saturated fat. We believe such labeling would simply add to consumers’ perception that there are “good” foods and “bad” foods. The proposed footnote can lead to the very kind of confusion that labels are meant to prevent.
We are committed to providing nutritious food choices to our customers. To this end, we have taken substantive steps to encourage the expansion of menus to offer a variety of options. Restaurants have risen to the growing demands of consumers, including great demand for more nutritious foods, fresh ingredients, and fusion of flavors. We look forward to working with FDA in the future towards our common goal of educating consumers and making nutritious and wholesome food choices available.
Please feel free to call on us with any questions you may have regarding this issue, at (202) 331-5900.
Steven F. Grover, R.E.H.S.
Health and Safety Regulatory Affairs
Cc: Steven C. Anderson, President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Kilgore, Senior Vice President of Operations and General Counsel
Lee Culpepper, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Policy
Allison Whitesides, Legislative Representative