What's New -- CSPI Press Release

Monday, January 29, 1996

Contact: (202) 332-9110 x370

First Olestra Ad Called Deceptive -- Complaint Filed Today With Federal Trade Commission

Last Friday -- just two days after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the controversial fat substitute olestra -- Procter & Gamble trumpeted the approval in full-page newspaper ads around the country. The ad was headlined in half-inch high letters: "NO FAT. NO COMPROMISES."

Today, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that opposed approval of olestra, has petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to halt this ad campaign. Michael Jacobson, CSPI's executive director, said: "There certainly are compromises when you eat olestra. Even the FDA acknowledges an increased risk of loose stools and abdominal cramps in the short run. There is probably also a higher risk of cancer, heart disease, and blindness in the long run."

CSPI urged the FTC to require that any future advertising for olestra products include the same warning that the FDA is requiring on package labels:

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.

CSPI told the FTC that last week's ad is probably just the first of many ads for olestra and, later, for products made with olestra. According to Jacobson, ads for olestra will almost certainly hide from consumers the information that will be required on product labels. Many ads may imply that lower-fat olestra foods will lead to weight loss. CSPI recommended that all ads for olestra-containing foods be required to include the label warning information.

Last week's ad also said that "Olean is made starting with everyday ingredients -- vegetable oil and table sugar, combined in a breakthrough new way . . ." CSPI contended in its FTC complaint that the word "combined" suggests a simple mixing together instead of a chemical reaction that creates an entirely new synthetic chemical.

CSPI is a nonprofit consumer-advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. It focuses primarily on nutrition, food safety, and alcohol issues. CSPI is supported largely by the 750,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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