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The food manufacturers who oppose the Heart Association's dietary recommendations have come in for widespread criticism. "Instead of making excuses, they ought to be adopting the long-range goal of making better products," says Dr. John LaRosa, an internist at George Washington University Medical School. Many doctors believe that the labels on processed food should spell out the amounts of cholesterol, saturated fat and polyunsaturated fat the food contains. "How else is the shopper to know that something as innocent as a soda cracker contains 4 gm of saturated fat?" asks Cincinnati's Dr. Glueck. Saturated fat, usually in the form of coconut oil, lurks in most commercially baked breads and cakes, in nondairy creamers, on the oiled surface of frozen French fries, and even in wholesome granola. At Washington's Center for Science in the Public Interest, Nutritionist Bonnie Liebman has investigated the chic new frozen foods and found that some are surprisingly heavy in fat. Among them: Armour's Dinner Classics, Swanson's Le Menu and Pepperidge Farm's frozen vegetables in pastry. Of the 200 calories in each of Pepperidge Farm's croissants, she says, 118 are in the form of butter.
Pepperidge Farm defends its product: "Anybody's croissant is made up of about one-fourth butter," says Product Standards Manager Carol Johnson. In general, industry officials claim that they offer Americans a broad selection of foods, including lowfat, low-cholesterol varieties for those who want them. Kraft, Inc., Spokesman David Roycroft points out that the dairy industry has taken pains to increase the number of products from which the butterfat has been removed. Kraft's Golden Image imitation cheeses and Light n' Lively yogurt and cottage cheese were, he says, "developed in response to a perceived demand by consumers for such products." The meat industry has also responded to this demand, by offering 95%-fat-free ham and pork luncheon meats. Over the past decade the amount of fat in pork has been cut 30% and the amount in beef reduced 6% to 7%. The American Meat Institute is seeking changes in U.S.D.A. fat requirements to allow further reductions.
Officially, the Federal Government has neither rejected nor endorsed the A.H.A. dietary recommendations, nor has it taken a position on whether foodmakers should adopt more candid labeling. Since 1980, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have published a brochure offering Americans the following general recommendation: "Avoid too much fat, saturated fat and cholesterol." Throughout this year, officials of both departments are meeting with scientists to discuss whether or not this recommendation should be made more stringent and specific, in light of the N.H.L.B.I. findings. "The time has come for the Federal Government to make some pronouncement on cholesterol," says George Washington University's LaRosa. But some nutritionists fear that opposition from the food industry will prevent the Government from taking a firmer stand.