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Fish, Other Products With Omega-3 Fatty Acids to Tout Their Heart-Healthy Benefits

Sept. 8, 2004 -- Coming to a fish market near you: "Tuna tackles heart disease," and "Salmon saves lives."

Well, not exactly, but under a new qualified health claim announced today by the FDA, shoppers can expect to see a lot of new food labels and advertisements that tout the heart-healthy benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

The FDA now says it will allow foods and supplements containing eiscosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids to carry a qualified health claim that says eating the product may reduce the risk of heart disease.

"The FDA has concluded that while these particular fatty acids are not essential to the diet, they may be beneficial in reducing coronary heart disease," says acting FDA commissioner Lester M. Crawford, MD. "It is our hope that this new health claim will assist consumers as they work to improve their diets by selecting the right foods to improve their health."

DHA and EPA are omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, and herring, and in algae. The new qualified health claim does not apply to other types of fatty acids, such as those found in plants and olive oil.

In approving the qualified health claim, the FDA says there is good scientific evidence to support the claim that eating products containing omega-3 fatty acids reduces the risk of heart disease, but the evidence is not entirely conclusive.

It's the second qualified health claim the FDA has approved for a conventional food. Last year, it allowed a similar heart-healthy qualified health claim to be included on packaging and advertisements for nuts.

The FDA introduced qualified health claims in 2003 as a part program that ranks scientific evidence behind health claims of food products. Under the new system, the FDA allows food and supplement manufacturers to make qualified health claims about their products as long as they contain an appropriate disclaimer.

New Health Claim Headed to Grocery Stores Soon

In its decision, the FDA has approved the following language for qualified health claims that may appear on the label or in advertisements for foods or supplements containing EPA or DHA:

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