Silver Spring, Md. – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. will begin phasing out trans fats, saying the risk to consumers’ health is just too high.
The FDA says partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are no longer “generally recognized as safe” – or GRAS for short – for use in food.
PHOs have been shown to raise bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein), increasing the risk of heart disease.
The FDA adds that the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that trans fat provides no known health benefit and that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat.
Additionally, the IOM recommends that consumption of trans fat should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
The FDA says its decision on trans fats, though it isn’t yet final, would likely lead to rules that effectively ban an ingredient that’s been in widespread commercial use since the 1940s, says the ChicagoTribune.com.
The FDA says it based its decision on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels.
Artificial trans fats are common in food product such as cookies, crackers, frozen pizzas, certain desserts, microwave popcorn products, margarines and coffee creamers.
In recent years, many food manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in many foods and products they sell, says the FDA. Thanks to these efforts, along with public education, the consumption of trans fat in American diets has been significantly reduced.
Since trans fat content information began appearing in the Nutrition Facts label of foods in 2006, trans fat intake among American consumers has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about one gram per day in 2012.
But, says Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D, and FDA Commissioner, “further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year – a critical step in the protection of Americans’ health.”
The FDA’s proposal is not the first public effort to ban trans fats, says Reuters.com. New York City banned the use of trans fats in restaurants, including their use for deep-frying foods, and many restaurants and fast food chains, including McDonald’s Corp., have eliminated their use.
Even some European countries have also taken steps, adds Reuters.com. Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland regulate the sale of many foods containing trans fats.