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FDA to allow olive oil to be promoted as heart-healthy



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WASHINGTON, Nov 2 (AFP) - US regulators have agreed to allow makers of olive oil products to make the claim that their products might reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement Monday that it made the decision based on "limited but not conclusive evidence that suggests that consumers may reduce their risk of (heart disease) if they consume monounsaturated fat from olive oil and olive oil-containing foods in place of foods high in saturated fat," without increasing the number of calories consumed.

The decision suggests that olive oil and foods containing olive oil may be healthier than those of foods with high levels of saturated fats, such as butter.

Labels must disclose that, to get the heart benefit, consumers' intake of olive oil should replace a similar amount of saturated fat, but should not increase the number of calories taken in each day.

The FDA's action is part for its new "qualified claims" policy for foods -- which took effect last year -- that allowed food companies to make claims about their products' health benefits when the weight of the scientific evidence supports the claim, but not all of the data are in.

"With this claim, consumers can make more informed decisions about maintaining healthy dietary practices," said Lester Crawford, acting FDA commissioner.

"Since CHD (coronary heart disease) is the number one killer of both men and women in the US, it is a public health priority to make sure that consumers have accurate and useful information on reducing their risk."

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COPYRIGHT 2004 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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