P&G SPARS OVER OLESTRA LABEL

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Trying to avoid a difficult marketing battle, Procter & Gamble Co. asked the Food & Drug Administration to reconsider its label requirement for products containing olestra.

"Consumers found the language unclear and confusing," said a P&G spokeswoman.

"Read `scary,"' said Bob Monaghan, senior partner at consultancy Dechert & Hampe. "It's supposed to be a snacky, fun-time food. P&G may be swimming against the tide on this and, in absence of relief from the government, they've got a real problem."

"They already need to educate the consumer on olestra's benefits and will have the additional communication issue of explaining away the label," Mr. Monaghan said.

FDA's current label requirement states: "Olestra may cause abdominal cramping and loose stools. Olestra inhibits the absorption of vitamins and other nutrients. Vitamins A, D, E and K have been added."

Armed with research, P&G is suggesting gentler language.

The letter suggested using less-graphic terms, like "intestinal discomfort" or "laxative effect" in describing possible gastrointestinal effects.

There is no established timeframe for an FDA response to P&G's request.

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