- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Consumers looking for the amount of trans fat in a bag of microwaveable popcorn or container of cheddar cheese sauce may have to wait a bit longer.

While a new law requires all food packages to have trans-fat information on nutrition panels by Jan. 1, not all packaged foods and drinks have been updated.

The Food and Drug Administration, the federal agency that regulates food labeling, allowed packaged foods with unmodified labels to be sent to retailers until Dec. 31, so the discrepancy is to be expected.

The agency also allowed an undisclosed number of food manufacturers to file for an extension, which allows them to use up old labels, said agency spokeswoman Kimberly Rawlings.

“We will allow ample time for a transition period and then look at the situation and how to proceed with enforcement,” Ms. Rawlings said.

The FDA has not specified when all packaged foods must have trans-fat information on their nutrition facts panels.

A recent visit to a Washington-area supermarket found most — but not all —packaged foods and beverages bore the trans-fat information.

But while Ragu’s organic pasta sauce’s food label contained trans-fat information, the brand’s cheddar cheese sauce did not.

Unilever United States Inc., an Englewood Cliffs, N.J., consumer-products manufacturer that owns the Ragu brand, received a 12-month extension from the FDA to finish its label change, said spokeswoman Jennifer Stalzer.

“A vast majority of products we ship are clearly labeled and meet FDA requirements,” she said.

Tamiflu distribution up

Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., a Nutley, N.J., pharmaceutical company, this week stepped up distribution of Tamiflu in U.S. cities experiencing a high rate of flu cases.

An undisclosed amount of Tamiflu, the anti-viral drug considered effective against influenza, is being shipped directly to wholesalers in the affected metropolitan areas.

States seeing a higher flu-incidence rate include California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Oregon, Nevada and Kansas.

The company in October halted shipments of Tamiflu after demand and hoarding of the drug surged on fears of a potential avian-influenza pandemic. Tamiflu is also considered a viable treatment against bird flu.

“Because of those precautionary measures, Tamiflu is readily and widely available to patients who need it for flu treatment and prevention, while we continue to work with governments to supply stockpiles for pandemic preparedness,” said Roche President and Chief Executive Officer George Abercrombie.

Rockville firm wins contract

HealthExtras Inc., a Rockville pharmacy-management company, this week won a contract from Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, an Iowa health insurer.

HealthExtras, which would not disclose financial terms, beginning July 1 will provide pharmacy-benefit programs for more than 1.3 million policyholders Wellmark covers in Iowa and South Dakota.

The Rockville company currently manages benefits for more than 3 million members, with clients including businesses, state and local governments, managed care organizations and unions.

Health Care runs Fridays. Call 202/636-4892 or e-mail mhiggins@washingtontimes.com.

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