Rockville, MD—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to amend the regulation of health claims on food labels.  In 2000, Unilever submitted a petition to the FDA requesting permission to label products containing phytosterols as beneficial for cardiovascular health.  Now, in 2010, the FDA is finally making a proposal to amend to regulation of this particular food additive and allow manufacturers to make disease-related claims on product packaging. 

On December 8, 2010, the FDA issued a report summarizing the precedence for this regulatory battle as well as detailing the large amount of scientific research on the correlation between cholesterol levels and phytosterols.  In the report the FDA outlines the necessary action that must be taken before legislating the new labeling.  For example, the FDA has to explicitly determine the daily dietary intake necessary for the claimed benefit specified on packaging and also appropriate a consistent terminology utilized throughout the industry.

Phytosterols are derived from fatty acids and have been shown in FDA studies to reduce cholesterol in individuals and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.  The goal of the proposed legislation is to provide consumers with more explicit and accessible information when deciding which foods are nutritious and beneficial for their health.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2011 (online 12/20/10)