FDA obesity plan is largely voluntary

March 12, 2004 at 8:46 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 12 (UPI) -- A U.S. Food and Drug Administration anti-obesity plan to educate consumers and label low-calorie foods relies more on encouragement than enforcement.

The agency's Obesity Working Group said Friday it plans to focus a public education campaign on the message, "Calories Count," and provide guidance for labeling low, reduced or carbohydrate-free products.

As part of the effort, food manufacturers may be asked to enlarge the type of calorie counts on nutrition labels and list its percentage of daily allowance. New guidelines to clarify serving sizes also will be issued, and the agency will encourage restaurants to include nutritional information for consumers on menus.

The FDA also plans to update its 1996 guidelines for evaluating weight control drugs.

Most of the programs are voluntary and carry little or no penalty for violation. Instead, the FDA is relying on industry leaders as examples, said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

"I believe voluntary compliance in this case is much better," Thompson said.

Margo Wootan, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, told United Press International few restaurant chains have complied with a voluntary nutrition labeling program in place for 10 years, however.

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