Trans Fat: Federal Labeling Requirements

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In July 2003, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation altering the “Nutrition Facts” label on packaged food products.  As of January 1, 2006, food manufacturers must now list trans fat content on their nutrition label. 

However, this Federal labeling rule allows manufacturers to list “zero” if the product contains less than half of a gram of trans fat per serving.  Therefore, the product could still contain small amounts of shortening or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil while showing “zero” trans fat.  Also, no percentage of daily value (%DV) is listed, as trans fat has no known nutritional value. 

The issuance of this Federal labeling rule is an example of how government agencies can publish rules and regulations that have the force of law, even though rules have neither been voted on by Congress nor signed into law by the President.  However, the rule must be based on an existing statute or law over which the agency has been granted authority.  Also, the public must be given notice of the proposed rule, so that people can object before the rule is issued. 

Furthermore, agencies like the FDA do not make these rules without any research.  Here, the FDA relied on studies from the National Cholesterol Education Program, the Institute of Medicine, and the National Academies of Science to come to a decision.  The FDA also collaborates with other governmental entities like the DHHS and USDA to create the best rule benefiting the health of the people. 

Here, scientific reports indicated that consumption of trans fat increases “bad” cholesterol levels and causes coronary heart disease.  Trans fat can be found in shortening, cookies, crackers, friend foods, snack foods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils. 

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Last Modified: 04-28-2014 03:55 PM PDT

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