Major victory. Fitadelphia and What’s Eating You Kid? are grateful to have been part of this campaign to eliminate trans fats from foods. Now let’s get the rest of the junk out.
The Trans Fat Monster is defeated.
The federal government on Tuesday moved to ban the trans fats found in some of Americans’ favorite snacks, from popcorn and pies to frozen pizzas and cinnamon rolls.
The rule by the Food and Drug Administration notes that partially hydrogenated oils – the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods – are no longer generally recognized as safe for use in food. Under the rule, food companies have three years – until June 18, 2018 – to remove them from products in grocery stores.
“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans,” Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the FDA’s acting commissioner, said in a statement.
The FDA did give food makers one way to use the ingredient in small amounts: Companies would need to file a petition to seek the specific use of partially hydrogenated oils in a product.
Trans fats are used by food makers to improve taste, hold artificial coloring and make foods last longer. They have, however, been linked to heart disease, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest says they cause about 50,000 fatal heart attacks each year. They can also raise the levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, which can build up in people’s arteries.
“We base our determination on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat,” the FDA’s rule says.
Over 20 years, the estimated economic benefits of banning partially hydrogenated oils would total between $117 billion and $242 billion, Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said in a statement. The costs of switching to healthier oils would total between $12 billion and $14 billion.
“A healthier food supply is absolutely critical in supporting good health and reducing chronic disease related to poor nutrition … obesity and food insecurity,” Benjamin said.
The move toward banning trans fats has been gradual. New York was the first major U.S. city to ban their use in restaurants and bakeries in 2006, the same year that the FDA began requiring food makers to include trans fat information in their nutrition labels. In 2013, the FDA determined partially hydrogenated oils were not generally thought to be safe, and asked for public comments before releasing its final determination Tuesday.
Though major food manufacturers have been voluntarily removing trans fats from their products – reducing their consumption by roughly 80 percent between 2003 and 2012, according to FDA estimates – some still contain them in small amounts. Manufacturers currently can indicate on a product’s nutrition label that it has 0 grams of trans fat if it contains less than 0.5 grams per serving. Though that amount previously had been considered safe, a person who eats more than one serving could unknowingly be consuming more than they should.
The Great Government Takeover
Michael Jacobson, executive director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, called the move toward the elimination of trans fats a “major victory for public health.”
“The final determination made today by the Food and Drug Administration gives companies more than enough time to eliminate the last of the partially hydrogenated oil that is still used in foods like microwave popcorn, biscuits, baked goods, frostings and margarines,” he said in a statement.
But not everyone is on board with the ban. Daren Bakst, a research fellow in agricultural policy at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says the FDA is trying to serve as the food police and the nation’s nutritionist.
“The agency is trying to use its power to go after ‘unhealthy’ ingredients, not ‘unsafe’ ingredients,” he says. “People can make voluntary and informed decisions regarding what food they choose to eat. Sometimes those decisions aren’t going to be consistent with the bureaucrats’ views on what people should eat. However, that is a choice for individuals to make, not government officials.”
To abide by the rule, manufacturers are likely to switch from using partially hydrogenated soybean and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oils to coconut oil and partially hydrogenated palm oil.
Erik Olson, director of the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the move but said it did not go far enough in looking at other chemicals in food that could be harmful.
Check those out at:
FDA should do its own safety reviews of these chemicals and provide more transparency so the public can learn whether we are eating potentially harmful chemicals, and what actions the agency is taking to make sure that our food is safe,” he said in a statement.
Kimberly Leonard, Staff Writer
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