Packaged baked goods, crackers, salty snacks and other Center Store products were put under the microscope this year when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that manufacturers will be required to disclose the number of grams of trans fatty acids on nutrition labels by Jan. 1, 2006.
The FDA's trans-fat ruling is the first major change in the nutrition facts label since it was inaugurated 10 years ago. The ruling comes at a time when consumer awareness about trans-fat is on the rise, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y. It's currently the third-highest food-safety concern that NPD tracks, ranking only behind E. coli 0157:H7 and salmonella.
Some manufacturers have voluntarily begun to remove trans-fats from their products. For example, Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas, first announced a product conversion to corn oil for Doritos, Tostitos and Cheetos snacks, which resulted in zero grams of trans-fats. Lay's, Ruffles, Fritos and Rold Gold Pretzels now also contain zero grams of trans-fat.
Earlier this year, Frito-Lay, a division of PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y., began changing its packaging to include a trans-fat content line on the nutrition label of its core brands.
Along with manufacturers, some retailers are steering clear of trans-fats. Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas, for instance, doesn't carry any products containing hydrogenated oils, the most common source of trans-fats.
The Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington, supports trans-fat labeling, provided that trans fats are listed similarly to that of sugar and protein content.
However, in October, the GMA announced it opposes a proposed addition of a footnote statement to the nutrition facts box regarding intake of cholesterol, saturated fat and/or trans fats.
"A separate mandatory footnote of any sort regarding cholesterol, saturated fat and trans fat is entirely inappropriate," Alison Kretser, GMA's director of scientific and nutrition policy, said in a statement.
The GMA states that a footnote will lead consumers to overemphasize the importance of that information at the expense of all other nutrients, calories or other nutritional considerations.