Many food manufacturers are blatantly misleading consumers by making deceptive "no cholesterol" claims and should be required to disclose the amount of saturated fat in their products, lawmakers say.

To improve food labeling, Rep. Dan Glickman, D-Kan., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, have introduced a bill that would force most manufacturers to list the type of vegetable oil used in their products."Many consumers have found it impossible to determine the actual ingredients in some food products because of vague, misleading or imprecise labeling of foods on their grocers' shelves," Harkin said at a news conference.

"This is not a trivial matter. For many this is truly a matter of life and death."

Under the proposed legislation, manufacturers that make "no cholesterol" or "baked with 100 percent vegetable oil" claims would have to provide a breakdown of fat, saturated fat and cholesterol in their products.

Some products emblazoned with such claims, Harkin said, actually contain more saturated fat than lard and beef tallow.

Underscoring the need for improved labeling, the congressmen set up a display of crackers, cookies and cereals that boast "no cholesterol" but actually contain excessive amounts of saturated fat, which raises serum cholesterol.

"Our bill tackles this problem head-on and assures that the buying public will be informed, nor misled, about product ingredients and nutritional value," Glickman said.