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Consumer Group Attacks Vegetable Oil Labeling

August 6, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A consumer group is seeking a change in the government rules for labeling cooking oil, contending that people may be misled by claims that a product is all-vegetable.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest said Wednesday that it will petition the Food and Drug Administration to restrict labeling claims for products which contain palm, coconut or palm kernel oil.

The center said it will request that cooking oils containing those oils be prohibited from stating they are a 100 percent vegetable product unless they also disclose that they contain saturated fat.

In addition, the group said it will ask that labels for processed foods which include those oils be required to add the explanation, ″a saturated fat,″ after the name of the oil.

Many consumers are seeking to reduce the amount of saturated fats in their diets because of concern about the relationship between those fats and heart disease, the consumer group said.

Because animal products such as lard and beef tallow often contain saturated fats, many consumers seek cooking oils which are all vegetable on the assumption they will then get only unsaturated fats, according to the center, a non-profit consumer group.

″Clever food marketers are exploiting the public’s desire to avoid saturated fat by making ’100 percent vegetable shortening’ claims,″ said Michael Jacobsen, executive director of the group.

″Unsuspecting consumers, who think that vegetable oils are more healthful than animal fats, would be shocked to learn that palm, coconut and palm kernel oil have more saturated fat than lard,″ Jacobsen said.

Coconut oil contains 92 percent saturated fat, and palm kernel oil 86 percent, according to Nutrition Action, the center’s periodic health letter.

By comparison, butterfat is 66 percent saturated fat, beef tallow is 52 percent saturated, palm oil is 51 percent and lard is 41 percent saturated fat.

At the other end of the scale, safflower oil is only 9 percent saturated fat, the report said, followed by sunflower oil, 11 percent; corn oil, 13 percent; olive oil, 14 percent, and soybean oil, 15 percent.

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