F.D.A. approves health claim for corn oil

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration on Monday said there was enough evidence for manufacturers of corn oil to use a qualified health claim touting certain products’ relationship with reducing the risk of heart disease.

"Very limited and preliminary scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 tablespoon (16 grams) of corn oil daily may reduce the risk of heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in corn oil," the F.D.A. said. "F.D.A. concludes that there is little scientific evidence supporting this claim. To achieve this possible benefit, corn oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains [x] grams of corn oil."

The F.D.A. issued its response following an April 2006 request from ACH Food Companies, Inc. ACH, which is a division of Associated British Foods, makes Mazola corn oil, Karo light corn syrup and Argo corn starch.

In issuing its response, the F.D.A. concluded that while there is sufficient evidence for a qualified health claim, it must be appropriately worded so as to not mislead consumers.

Items that would qualify for the claim include pure corn oil, vegetable oil blends, margarine, salad dressings, shortenings and certain sauces and baked goods. Although those items don’t meet the 10% minimum nutrient content requirement to be considered for a traditional health claim, the F.D.A. said they do provide unsaturated fatty acids that may be used in place of saturated fatty acids in the diet. This information may help consumers reduce saturated fat and cholesterol consumption while assisting in maintaining healthy dietary practices, the F.D.A. said.

Qualified health claims are limited, but food and beverage companies like the claims because they believe they help inform consumers. Critics contend such claims are lacking full scientific evidence and may confuse consumers.

For its part, the F.D.A. said the qualified claim for corn oil and corn oil-containing products was supported by credible scientific evidence, but noted that a small sample size in two intervention studies that showed a beneficial relationship and the fact that not all the studies reported a benefit gives reason for caution.

"F.D.A. believes that the scientific evidence represents a very low level of comfort among qualified scientists that the claimed relationship is scientifically valid," the F.D.A. said.

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