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    New FDA Rule Could Change Some Popular Snacks

    Nutrition label requirement to list trans fat amounts comes in response to concerns about obesity, diabetes.

    WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration is expected to unveil a new rule today that requires the makers of cookies, crackers and other popular snack foods to list trans fat amounts on nutrition panels.

    Although the rule falls short of what some nutritionists and health advocates wanted, it is expected to jump-start a major reworking of the formulas used to make such products as Oreos and Triscuits and such frozen foods as pot pies and French fries, said representatives of both the food manufacturing industry and the public interest group that first petitioned the FDA for the trans fat label in 1994, according to the Associated Press.

    Most of the trans fat in America's diet comes from vegetable oil that has been partially hydrogenated to make it stay solid at room temperature. Think Crisco, and you've got trans fat.

    Researchers agree that it is more dangerous than saturated fat because it raises the levels of unhealthy blood cholesterol and lowers the levels of beneficial blood cholesterol. Trans fat also is suspected of contributing to the nation's obesity epidemic and the rise in diabetes rates by altering the ways cells work.

    According to the FDA's own research, listing information about trans fat on food labels could prevent 7,600 to 17,100 cases of coronary heart disease and 2,500 to 5,600 deaths every year. Not only will people be able to choose more healthful foods, but also manufacturers could choose to reduce trans fat amounts rather than list high levels on nutrition panels, the FDA says.

    Depending on the final wording of the FDA's ruling, consumers will start seeing the new nutrition labels anywhere from six months to three years from now, said Stephanie Childs of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an industry group that lobbies for the nation's biggest food companies, the report said. Exactly how long companies will have to change their labels will become clear when the FDA announces the rule. Childs had no estimate of the cost of reanalyzing the food products and designing new labels.

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