Heart-clogging trans fats have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. Now, the Food and Drug Administration is finishing the job.
The FDA announced today it will require the food industry to gradually phase out artificial trans fats, saying they are a threat to people’s health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year…
Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including in some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs, cookies, biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.
Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. Diners shouldn’t be able to detect a taste difference if trans fats are replaced by other fats.
To phase them out, the FDA said it had made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency’s “generally recognized as safe” category, which is reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it, and that would likely not be approved.
The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA is not targeting small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren’t considered a major public health threat on their own.
Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats and say they can raise levels of so-called “bad” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease – the leading cause of death in the United States…
The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group’s director, Michael Jacobson, says the move is “one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take.”
Bravo! And as usual – overdue. The essential scientific analysis which concluded that trans fats are not only useless but harmful was completed before that first petition to the FDA nine years ago. All the rest is American politics at its worst.