Trans-Fat_406x250The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in food. The move, based on “a thorough review of the scientific evidence,” essentially bans artificial trans fat from the food supply. Companies can still seek food additive approval for one or more specific uses of PHOs with data demonstrating a reasonable certainty of no harm from the proposed uses. PHOs can no longer be added to foods after June 18, 2018, unless they are otherwise approved by FDA. The three-year compliance period is meant to allow food manufacturers to either reformulate products without PHOs or petition the FDA to permit specific uses. “The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” said FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.” Consumption of trans fat can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol,” and the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level of consumption of trans fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, removing PHOs from processed foods could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 coronary deaths each year. “PHOs or partially hydrogenated oils have been used as ingredients since the 1950s to improve the shelf-life of processed foods,” wrote Susan Mayne, the director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, in an agency blog post. “In this case, it has become clear that what’s good for extending shelf-life is not equally good for extending human life.” On Nov. 8, 2013, FDA announced a tentative determination that PHOs are no longer GRAS under any condition of use in human food and therefore are food additives. At the time, the agency requested additional data and scientific information and asked for comments on several questions. The public was originally given until Jan. 7, 2014, to comment on the notice. However, in response to several requests, FDA extended the comment period to March 8, 2014. The agency received more than 6,000 comments in response to the notice, including more than 4,500 form letters. The submissions came from individuals, industry and trade associations, consumer and advocacy groups, health professional groups, and state or local governments. FDA encourages consumers seeking to reduce trans fat intake to check the Nutrition Facts label for trans fat. The most effective way to avoid PHOs is to check the ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils because, even if trans fat is listed as having “0” grams, they could still contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

  • Andre

    Boooo. This is like showing up to the battlefield with a stretcher when the fighting is almost done.

    The science was solid a decade ago: the National Academy of Sciences found then that there was no nutritional/health benefit of trans fats and that there is no safe level of consumption (I believe the exact words in the Dietary Reference Intakes (2005) were, “any incremental increase in trans fatty acid intake increases CHD risk”).

    I haven’t bothered to check the dictionary, but I’m pretty sure that there being no safe level is the opposite of “generally recognized as safe.”

    The FDA has failed in its duty to protect the public; the fact that it’ll be another 3 years before these ingredients are banned is inexcusable. I suppose it is better, though, than a few more “we think this might not be safe” and “now we’re really leaning towards this maybe not being safe” pronouncements strung out through 2025, then a phaseout date of 2035.

    • Oginikwe

      Yes. The FDA is always last in line just like the bpa ban in baby bottles and sippy cups which was consumer led. Shows a complete lack of courage on their part.

  • Lars Krusell

    It seems like the US is 5-10 years behind Europe when it comes to consumer protection. At least in the food sector. Worth to consider – and let EU rule – in the ongoing atlantic trade union negociations. Some adjustments needed for US regulators and industry.

  • Sunny Knight

    so, they are going to allow 60,000 heart attacks before it is gone ??? sounds pretty dumb to me..

  • Kitsy WooWoo

    How dare they take away our right to kill ourselves! 😉