For Immediate Release: May 7, 1996

Contact: Richard Hébert, 202/332-9110, ext. 370, or

Michael Jacobson, ext. 328

Olestra Toll-free Hot-line To Monitor

Cramps and Other Side Effects of Fake Fat


People who suffer side effects from eating chips made with the controversial fake fat, olestra, are being urged to call a toll-free hot-line -- 1-888-OLESTRA -- opened today by a leading nonprofit health advocacy group.

Frito-Lay is test-marketing "Max" potato and tortilla chips made with olestra in three cities -- Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Grand Junction, Colorado. Olestra is featured on labels as Olean.

The Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which is sponsoring the hot-line, plans to track and compile reported effects from eating olestra and transmit them to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Names of persons calling the hot-line will be kept confidential.

The FDA acknowledges that olestra can cause abdominal cramping, loose stools, and other gastrointestinal problems. Other effects include diarrhea, gas, and fecal urgency. Olestra may also pass out of the body and cause "anal leakage" and underwear staining.

Myra Karstadt, a toxicologist at CSPI who reviewed studies on olestra, said, "It is important that we hear from consumers who experience diarrhea or other effects from eating olestra chips. They should call 1-888-OLESTRA." She said shoppers may also obtain information about olestra's health effects by calling the hot-line.

CSPI has urged consumers not to buy olestra snacks because they cause gastrointestinal symptoms and interfere with the absorption of important fat-soluble nutrients called carotenoids that probably help prevent cancer and other chronic diseases.

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization founded in 1971 and supported largely by the 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI is well-known for its studies of theater popcorn, Chinese restaurants, and other foods eaten outside of home.

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