The Food and Drug Administration announced that the food industry has three years in which to totally eliminate all artificial trans fats from food products. This comes as a big win for consumer groups who have worked diligently trying to eradicate trans fats from our food supply. Removing trans fat, a major contributor to heart disease in the United States, from our food supply is expected to save thousands of lives a year.
“This is the final nail in the coffin of trans fats,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that pushed for the ban. “In terms of lives saved, I think eliminating trans fats is the single most important change to our food supply.”
The agency announced its plans to act in 2013 and has since addressed more than 6,000 public comments. Over the years, trans fats in foods has been substantially reduced, but certain products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers still use them. This latest decision will effectively remove industrial trans fats from the American diet by 2018, a change that the agency has estimated could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
Although the food industry was grateful for the three years given to them to carry out the rule, they are also seeking permission to continue using small amounts of trans fats in certain products, but that seems unlikely. The FDA ruled that there was no safe level for consumption of trans fat.
These partially hydrogenated oils were originally thought to be a cheaper and healthier substitute for saturated animal fats and quickly became popular ingredients in fried and baked goods. Over the course of many years, scientific evidence proved otherwise. Trans fats were noted to raise levels of bad cholesterol and lower levels of good cholesterol –the exact opposite of what we want.
Although we’ve been moving in the right direction since 2006, when FDA required companies to list trans fat content on nutrition labels, some cities banned trans fats in foods sold by restaurants and bakeries and major fast food chains, including McDonald’s, found substitutes that reduced or eliminated trans fats, there was still a ways to go. It is estimated that consumption of trans fats fell by 78 percent from 2003 to 2012, due to labeling rule and subsequent reformulation of foods.
Because trans fats occur naturally in meat and dairy products, they’ll never be completely eliminated from our food supply, and some heath care experts say that saturated fats are still an enormous problem in the American diet, and these new rulings should not give consumers a false sense of security.