FDA: Trans Fats Are Not GRAS

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On Thursday, November 7, the FDA proposed a new law which would effectively eliminate partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) or artificial trans fats.

Why does this matter?

Because PHOs are in a LOT of the processed food we Americans eat. According to the FDA, PHOs are “the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food.” In fact, PHOs are a key ingredient in many popular snack foods. The NYT article, FDA Ruling Would All But Eliminate Trans Fats, explains that artificial trans fats “still lurk in many popular products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers.”

And I’m betting you (and I) eat plenty of these items — even as we try to watch our cholesterol.

I mean, all of us trying to lower heart disease risk by keeping our cholesterol in check know to avoid red meat and processed food in general. But frozen pizzas? And the occasional bag of microwave popcorn? These seemed to me (until I read about PHOs this week) fairly innocuous.

Apparently not so much.

Which is why the FDA acted. And it was a BIG play they made — the FDA has declared PHOs as “Not GRAS.”  Or, in regular-person-speak, if the FDA proposal passes, partially hydrogentated oils would now be known to be NOT ‘Generally Recognized As Safe.’

This is a radical shift.  HUGE.  The FDA is now saying that this common food additive IS NOT SAFE.

If, after the 60 day comment period, this proposal passes, food companies will not be able to use trans fats – AT ALL.

Which, frankly, is amazing.

It’s been a long time coming.  According to the FDA Targets Trans Fat in Processed Foods article on the FDA website, the FDA proposed all the way back in 1999 that food manufacturers had to specify the amount of trans fat per serving on Nutrition Labels. And it took until 2006 for trans fats to appear by law on nutrition labels.

So it took 7 years to require food labels show trans fats. And 7 years later the FDA wants to ban the use of trans fats.

Why?

According to the FDA site, it will save thousands of lives:

“… there are still many processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and may cause a heart attack.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take 7 more years for the FDA proposal to take hold and for PHOs to be declared unsafe.

We’ll see what happens after the 60 day period for public comments.

 

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