November 7th, 2013

FDA Seeks to Eliminate Trans Fat from Food in the U.S.

The FDA said today that it would begin to take efforts to remove trans fat from food in the U.S. The agency has made the “preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in food.”

If the FDA’s preliminary determination is made final then manufacturers will be required to reformulate products containing PHOs. The FDA will seek comments on the proposal for 60 days “to gain input on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat.”

“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat. 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.”

Trans fat has long been known to raise LDL cholesterol. The FDA cited an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report that concluded that “trans fat provides no known health benefit and that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat.”

Trans fat consumption in the U.S. has declined dramatically in recent years. In 2006, trans fat content became a standard part of food labels.  Trans fat intake dropped from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to 1 gram per day currently, according to the FDA. Nevertheless, trans fat is still contained in some processed foods, including, according to the FDA, desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizzas, margarines, and coffee creamers.

“The artery is still half clogged,” CDC director Thomas R. Frieden told the New York Times. “This is about preventing people from being exposed to a harmful chemical that most of the time they didn’t even know was there.”


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