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Olestra label dispute

Procter & Gamble Co. and Frito-Lay, the nation's biggest snack manufacturer, are asking FDA to accept less explicit language in labeling requirements for products containing olestra, a fat replacement ingredient developed by P&G.

Consumer tests by both companies indicated consumers were confused by FDA's proposed label. An FDA spokesperson said the agency is reviewing the comments. FDA approved use of olestra, branded as Olean, in snack foods in January 1996, but required product labels to note that "Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E and K have been added." FDA gave P&G time to conduct consumer surveys and suggest labeling alternatives. In comments to FDA, Frito-Lay-which is the first food company to use P&G's new ingredient, apart from P&G itself-noted that after reading the package label, 75% of consumers in its survey were uncertain of the safety of the product or believed it to be unsafe. The companies also objected to a requirement that language be contained in a black border, which they said further undermined consumer confidence in what they view as a safe ingredient. Pushing hard from the other direction, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a Washington, DC-based consumer group, has appealed FDA's approval of olestra and, in lengthy comments to FDA, called for even more explicit label language. CSPI has mounted a public relations campaign against olestra snacks. Frito-Lay is currently test marketing olestra chips and P&G plans to follow suit with an olestra version of its flagship, Pringles. c

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