FDA Says No More “Unsafe” Trans Fats

In a bid to reduce heart attacks and heart disease among Americans, the U.S. Food safety regulators have decided to ban a primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are not “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption. PHOs are an important source of artificial trans fat in the diet of many Americans.

The regulators have given food manufacturers until June 18, 2018 (3 years) to remove PHOs from food products. The food safety regulators feel this is enough time for food manufacturers to ask the FDA for permission to use foods that contain PHOs or to reformulate their products to eliminate PHOs. The regulators say that at the end of the compliance period, no food manufacturer will be allowed to add PHOs to human food unless they have been permitted by the FDA to do so.

FDA’s Ostroff Sees Link Between Trans Fats and Heart Health

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, FDA’s Acting Commissioner, says this action is expected to prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year and reduce coronary heart disease. The FDA anticipates that many companies will achieve compliance with the deadline since some companies are already removing PHOs from their processed foods. Following consultations with experts and a review of the scientific evidence, a preliminary determination to regard PHOs as unsafe for human consumption was announced by FDA in 2013. Currently, regulators are in the final stages of the resolution after taking into consideration the comments from the public.

According to Dr. Susan Mayne, the Director of the FDA’s Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Center, the determination is based on the input from all stakeholders received during the public comment period, as well as extensive research into the effects of PHOs. Food companies use artificial trans fats to increase the stability of processed foods, extend their shelf life, and improve their texture. This is because they are more readily available and cheaper than natural versions from dairy and meat sources. Since 2006, companies have had to show trans fat content on the nutrition facts labels of food products sold in the US.

The primary sources of PHOs in the American diet are savory snacks such as coffee creamers, microwave popcorn, ready-to-use frosting, and frozen pizza. Other sources include cakes, pies, cookies, fried foods, kinds of margarine, and spreads. PHOs are bad for health because consuming them increases “bad” cholesterol ( LDL) and lowers “good” cholesterol (HDL) in the body, raising the risk of coronary heart disease.

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