Health

FDA Allows Cardiovascular Health on Olive Oil Labels

A new 'qualified health claim' allows bottlers to say that their product improves heart health if consumed instead of animal-based fats.

Nov. 26, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will allow all olive oil bot­tles to carry a new “qual­i­fied health claim” on their labels.

Olive oil man­u­fac­tur­ers may now choose to adver­tise their prod­uct as a heart-healthy alter­na­tive to animal-based fats for cook­ing and food prepa­ra­tion.

“Supportive but not con­clu­sive sci­en­tific evi­dence sug­gests that daily con­sump­tion of about 1.5 table­spoons of oils con­tain­ing high levels of oleic acid, may reduce the risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease,” Scott Gottlieb, the head of the agency, wrote in a blog post.

“The claim will also need to make it clear that to achieve this ben­e­fit, these oils should replace fats and oils higher in sat­u­rated fat and not increase the total number of calo­ries you eat in a day,” he added.

Along with olive oil, cer­tain types of algal, canola, saf­flower and sun­flower oils will also be allowed the use the qual­i­fied claim.

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Joseph R Profaci, the exec­u­tive direc­tor of the North American Olive Oil Association, told Olive Oil Times that in spite of olive oil already having its own qual­i­fied health claim, he is encour­aged by the proac­tive steps taken by the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion to adopt these types of reg­u­la­tions.

“Olive oil has had its own qual­i­fied health claim for years, [but] very few com­pa­nies have used it because it requires a pretty exten­sive dis­claimer, and label space is at a pre­mium,” he said.

“What I do find encour­ag­ing about the announce­ment is that it indi­cates a will­ing­ness on the part of the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion at the FDA to adopt changes and reg­u­la­tions that help inform con­sumers to make choices about their health,” Profaci added. “We are hoping that will trans­late into a will­ing­ness to adopt a stan­dard of iden­tity for olive oils in the near future.”

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The FDA made the announce­ment on Monday in response to a peti­tion sent to the agency by Corbion Biotech, Inc, but stopped short of allow­ing these oils to use an “autho­rized health claim” on their labels, which requires “sig­nif­i­cant sci­en­tific agree­ment.”

“FDA eval­u­ated the sci­en­tific evi­dence pro­vided with the peti­tion and other evi­dence related to [the] pro­posed claim,” Douglas Balentine, the direc­tor of the Office of Nutrition and Food Labeling at the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, wrote in response to the peti­tion.

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“Based on this review, FDA deter­mined that the sci­en­tific evi­dence sup­port­ing the pro­posed health claim did not meet the ‘sig­nif­i­cant sci­en­tific agree­ment’ stan­dard under the Act for con­ven­tional foods,” he added.

The FDA reviewed seven small stud­ies while making its deter­mi­na­tion, of which six indi­cated par­tic­i­pants who replaced animal fats with high-oleic oils had a reduced risk for coro­nary heart dis­ease.

“The sci­ence behind the new qual­i­fied health claim for oleic acid, while not con­clu­sive, is promis­ing,” Gottlieb wrote.

“Six of the stud­ies found that those who were ran­domly assigned to con­sume diets con­tain­ing oils with high levels of oleic acid as a replace­ment to fats and oils higher in sat­u­rated fat expe­ri­enced a modest low­er­ing in their total cho­les­terol and heart-dam­ag­ing low-den­sity lipopro­tein (LDL) cho­les­terol levels com­pared to those who ate a more Western-style diet that was higher in sat­u­rated fat.”

The gov­ern­ment is allow­ing health labels such as these with the hope that they will encour­age people to eat more nutri­tious and healthy foods and that, in turn, will help to drive down rates of chronic ill­nesses asso­ci­ated with poor diets, includ­ing Type 2 dia­betes, obe­sity and even cancer.

“Consumers should have access to clear, trans­par­ent food labels that enable them to make smart choices that ben­e­fit them­selves and their fam­i­lies,” Gottlieb con­cluded.