FDA to Begin Ordering 'Trans Fat' Labeling

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The nation's top food and drug regulator says the country will soon have rules mandating better labeling of fatty foods.

American consumers, 60 percent of whom are overweight, currently have no easy way to know how much artery-clogging "trans fat" is in their food.

"We do need to get this on the label as soon as possible," Food and Drug Administration (search) Commissioner Dr. Mark McClellan said Tuesday at a conference co-sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health.

McClellan said trans fat labeling will take effect "very soon," though he refused to elaborate on a timeline.

Concerns about trans fatty acid (search), found in hydrogenated oils, grease, shortening, have increased as more studies show that they increase the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of good cholesterol, or HDL, while raising level of bad cholesterol, LDL.

The FDA, which proposed trans fat labeling in 1999, has been under pressure from the White House to impose new regulations.

Thirteen percent of children ages 6 to 11 are obese, double the number 20 years ago, McClellan said. "Americans are growing up heavier than ever," he said. "People will change when they have accurate and compelling information about the consequences of their choices."

Stephanie Childs, spokeswoman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (search), said the change will help consumers.

"When you turn (a product) over to look at the nutrition table, you're going to see one new line -- trans fat -- directly under saturated fat. It's as simple as that," she said.

The FDA also is considering putting a warning on foods that have trans fat -- a move that consumer groups support. But manufacturers argue that a warning would confuse consumers and cause them to eat more saturated fat, which also is unhealthy.