Wednesday, December 07, 2005

FDA Caves: Food Manufacturers Get Exemptions From Trans-Fat Labeling

Something that isn't getting much play in the media but should be - the FDA has announced trans-fat labeling exemptions for food manufacturers, shielding them from non-compliance issues after January 1, 2006, the deadline for food manufacturers to include trans-fat content in the nutrition facts panel on package labels.

Just how long have manufacturers known about this new requirement? For two-and-a-half years if you measure from when the FDA issued the final rules on July 11, 2003; over five years if you consider the period between contemplation of new labeling requirements in 1999 to now!

The reason exemptions are being given is lame - manufacturers and their trade organizations are claiming "hardship" (financial) because they have so many labels printed in their inventory, or (get this one) they don't have a good measure of the trans-fats in their products!

Say what?

Since when is POOR PLANNING an excuse to ignore the law?

Food manufacturers have had more than adequate time to plan their label printing needs for YEARS ahead of the January 1, 2006 deadline for compliance. Heck, some manufacturers are already using the new labels, so there is NO EXCUSE for any company not to follow the law starting January 1, 2006!

And last time I looked, trans-fat levels are available in a number of public databases, including the USDA Nutrient Database...and there are hundreds of laboratories around the country that do food testing. So the excuse a manufacturer can't figure out the trans-fats in their food is ridiculous and should be unacceptable.

But, we are dealing with the FDA aren't we?

Folks, I am ranting here, but this decision by the FDA to allow exemptions is insane. It is continuing the "smoke-and-mirrors, don't give the consumer all the facts they need, protect the interests of industry" song-and-dance many predicted two years ago. Yup, a number of people have been saying for years that at the deadline there would be expemptions or extentions. And, here we have them.

As a consumer this is something that should anger you - to save the "bottom line" of manufacturers who planned poorly their labeling needs, you now will pay with your health if you can't determine how much trans-fat a food has in it.

But, manufacturers will get to save money by being allowed to continue using up all those old labels they ordered - knowing a deadline for the label change was imminent - until they use them all up. How lucky are they?

Good luck consumers - you're still totally on your own trying to figure out what foods have trans-fats that are going to damage your health in the long-term.

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