FDA Announces Ban of Trans FatsJun 16, 2015
National Public Radio reports that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that food companies will have three years to phase out trans fats from their food products.
According to the FDA, such a ban could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. Most trans fats in food come from partially hydrogenated oils, which, up to now, been designated "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS), CBS News reports. Manufacturers may use GRAS ingredients without prior FDA approval.
Under the new rule, food manufacturers would need prior FDA approval to include trans fats in food products. In anticipation of the FDA rule, Jim O'Hara, director of health promotion for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said recently, "This is going to be a huge public health victory." The center had petitioned the FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago, CBS News reports. "It's time to get trans fats out of the food supply," O'Hara said.
Partially hydrogenated oils, which had been regarded as more healthful than saturated fats like butter, improve the texture, shelf life, and long-term flavor of foods, according to the FDA. Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil to make it more solid. Partially hydrogenated oils are found in a wide array of processed foods, including
- baked goods like cakes, cookies and pies
- non-dairy creamers
- ready-to-spread frosting
- microwave popcorn
- frozen pizza
- margarine and other spreads
- vegetable shortening
- refrigerated dough products such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls
Trans fats are considered even worse than saturated fats like butter because they simultaneously increase "bad" LDL cholesterol and reduce "good" HDL cholesterol in the body, said Sonya Angelone, a registered dietitian nutritionist in San Francisco. Angelone, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said trans fats "don't do anything good for us . . . If we get rid of them, it's going to help people reduce their risks for heart attacks and strokes."
Since 2006, food companies have voluntarily reduced their use of trans fats in response to an FDA requirement that trans fats must be listed on the Nutrition Facts label on food products. The amount of trans fats has declined by about 86 percent as manufacturers reformulated their recipes to reduce or eliminate trans fats.
In late 2013, the FDA issued a tentative determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS. The agency opened the matter to public comment and has weighed input from consumers, industry, advocacy groups and academic researchers.
Companies would still be able to petition the FDA to let them use partially hydrogenated oils as food additives, to preserve flavor or colors in some foods. The Grocery Manufacturers Association is developing a food additive petition for partially hydrogenated oils, CBS News reports. But Jim O'Hara of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said his group hopes “the FDA will take a very rigorous and skeptical eye to these petitions."