Docket Management
Docket: 94P-0036 - Labeling of Trans Fatty Acids
Comment Number: EC -30

Accepted - Volume 67

Comment Record
Commentor Ms. Leah Wilkinson Date/Time 2002-12-16 16:27:55
Organization National Cattlemen's Beef Association
Category Association

Comments for FDA General
1. General Comments December 16, 2002 Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305) Docket No. 94P-0036 RIN 0910-AB66 Food and Drug Administration 5630 Fishers Lane Room 1061 Rockville, MD 20852 Re: Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims; Reopening of the Comment Period, Docket No. 94P-0036, RIN 0910-AB66 To Whom It May Concern: On behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), I would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide comment on the reopened Docket No. 94P-0036, the “Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims; Reopening of the Comment Period.” NCBA is a consumer-focused, producer-directed organization representing the largest segment of the nation’s food and fiber industry. NCBA submitted comments to the proposed rule in April 2000 and is pleased that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to include the labeling of trans fatty acids on a separate line from saturated fats on the Nutrition Facts panel. However, we cannot support the proposal for which the FDA is currently seeking comments. FDA has proposed to do three things during this reopening of the comment period: 1. Place an asterisk instead of quantification for %DV when trans fat is listed. 2. Have a coordinating asterisk with the accompanying statement “Intake of trans fat should be as low as possible.” 3. Allow for companies that wish to include trans fat in the Nutrition Facts panel before the rule is final, to do so as long as it contains the asterisk and accompanying statement. NCBA would like to provide the following comments on the three components of the proposal. Use of an asterisk in place of a %DV We recognize that FDA is struggling with the lack of quantification for trans fat and is looking for an alternative based on current information in order to publish a final rule. However, we encourage FDA to wait for recommendations from the appropriate scientific bodies such as the DRI labeling committee to provide the necessary quantification information before issuing the final rule. The current Nutrition Facts panel may already contain at least two sets of asterisks and corresponding footnotes. One asterisk explains what “%DV” means and the other is used when the listed vitamins and minerals quantify less than 2% DV. The addition of yet another asterisk could only serve to further confuse consumers. We strongly urge the agency to conduct consumer research before moving forward with any such effort. Has the agency evaluated what would happen to the Nutrition Facts panel if another asterisk were added to the already cluttered and hard to read label? Will consumers understand and follow the multiple asterisk approach the FDA is starting to mandate? Statement explaining the asterisk It is important to keep in mind the purpose of the Nutrition Facts panel. As the title indicates, the panel provides “factual” information about what a food product contains. This quantitative data can be used to build a healthful diet but only with the addition of further dietary guidance and nutrition education. NCBA cannot support the use of the statement “Intake of trans fat should be as low as possible” when trans fat is listed on the panel. The proposed statement is nothing more than a warning label in a disguised form that will not serve to help Americans build healthful diets. In essence, this statement provides “commentary” that places a good or bad judgment on the value of specific foods. It is impossible to judge a food by only one of the nutrients that it provides. For instance, while beef contains a small amount of naturally occurring trans fatty acids, it is also the #1 source of dietary protein, zinc, and vitamin B12; #2 source of vitamin B6; and the #3 source of potassium, niacin, and iron (preceded only by enriched grains and cereals). (Subar, A.R.; Krebs-Smith, S.M.; Cook, A.; Kahle, L.L. Dietary sources of nutrients among U.S. adults, 1989 to 1991. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 98:537-547; 1998.) These essential nutrients, of which many Americans do not get enough of on a daily basis, play significant roles in the health of Americans. In fact, more than one-third of Americans are not meeting the Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) for vitamin B6 and iron, almost 40% for zinc and almost 25% for vitamin B12. Women and young girls consume even less. Allowing the use of the statement before a finalized rule Based on the comments above, NCBA opposes the use of inclusion of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts panel and the corresponding statement before this rule is finalized. FDA has stated in this Federal Register reopening of the comment period that they intend to publish the final rule in early 2003. Based on comments received, the FDA may change their proposed labeling of trans fat. Allowing companies to include this statement now deviates from the very reason this labeling went through the rule-making process. Using the statement now, without the necessary consumer communications research and scientific dialogue on the need for quantification, and given the potential that the labeling could change in a couple of months, will lead to consumer confusion as they try to interpret the label. In conclusion, NCBA appreciates the opportunity to comment on this very important issue. We have serious reservations to this new approach to the labeling of trans fat. We encourage the FDA to conduct the necessary consumer research and to seek the necessary quantification information before the finalization of this rule. Moving forward without these two components will detract from the factual basis of the Nutrition Facts panel and move to a commentary judgment of foods. This will do nothing to benefit the health of Americans. Sincerely, Leah Wilkinson Associate Director, Food Policy

EC -30