Eating trans fat, a type of fat that raises your bad cholesterol, can also raise your risk of heart disease. Because of this, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants it removed from foods.
The FDA has come to a preliminary decision that partially hydrogenated oils — the main source of artificial trans fat — can no longer be considered safe for use in food, but they are opening a 60-day comment period to collect more data about its safety.
If the FDA stands by this decision after reviewing the comments, partially hydrogenated oils will become unapproved for use in food.
In a prepared statement, Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, stated that, “Food manufacturers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in many foods in recent years, but a substantial number of products still contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are the major source of trans fat in processed food.”
The FDA has a list of products and ingredients that it considers to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), and for a long time partially hydrogenated oils have been on this list. GRAS status means that these products are regarded by experts as safe for their intended use and can be added to food without being approved in advance by the FDA.
Based on the evidence linking partially hydrogenated oils to a greater risk of heart disease, the FDA is now considering changing its status.
FDA estimates suggest that the consumption of trans fat has already significantly decreased in the US. In 2003, it was estimated that people consumed 4.6 grams of trans fat per day which dropped to about one gram per day in 2012. However, according to the Independent Institute of Medicine (IOM), there are no known health benefits of eating trans fat and no safe level of consumption.
Despite its voluntary removal in many products, there are still a great number of processed foods that contain trans fat — including microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, cakes, cookies, stick margarine products, coffee creamers, pies, and ready-to-use icing products.
By eliminating industrially produced trans fat in food, the FDA estimates it could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart-related deaths each year.
For more information about trans fat or to provide a comment on FDA’s ruling, visit the US Food and Drug Administration website.