Is it Olean® or Oh, Yuck?

How about a bit of Extra Grease with that?

In mid-2003 the FDA released its requirement for a warning label on products containing the fake fat Olean due to the relentless efforts of P&G Proctor & Gamble who own and market Olean formerly known as Olestra. It’s not easy selling a product that states, “This Product Contains Olestra. 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,” which was the previous warning required by FDA. P&G eventually persuaded FDA that because a lot of other products also cause SOME people distress (due to over consumption, allergies, etc), there was no reason to disparage their innocent product. In double-blind studies conducted by P&G (it’s totally common for a company to conduct their own tests), a limited number of people had problems. What a surprise! Based on this and other dubious research also provided by P&G the FDA easily agreed. Today no warning label is required at all!

The FDA’s Talk Paper released August 1, 2003 states: “Manufacturers will not (emphasis added) be required to display the 1996 label statement on products containing olestra. However, FDA will require manufacturers to continue adding Vitamins A, D, E, and K to such products. Consumers will now see an asterisk after each of these added fat-soluble vitamins listed in the ingredient statement of products containing olestra. The asterisk will reference the statement, “Dietarily insignificant.” Plain English translation: Look on the label for a teensy mark after Vitamins A, D, E & K. If the asterisk is there, so probably is Olestra.

Now, the FDA has decided to allow the use of Olean® in microwave popcorn. Yipee! Fun for all the family. It wouldn’t be a problem if you stuck to the suggested serving size but who does that? Most people eat the whole bag, even though it says it serves 20 (okay, I’m exagerating. It serves 12). So now folks showing up at their doctors with vague and unspecified intestional symptoms are likely to be treated with any number of tests and medications when a simple, “Avoid eating Olean” would have sufficed. Also, it’s not funny to offer snacks to unsuspecting neighborhood teenagers and watch them one by one get a funny look on their face saying, “I think I need to go home now.”