The FDA is finally stepping up to remove trans fat from a list of chemicals known as GRAS – or generally recognized as safe. This morning, the Food and Drug Administration opened up a 60-day public call for comments, scientific data, and other information they can use to help guide their decision to issue an all-out ban on trans fat, also known as partially hydrogenated oil.
“Based on new scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels, the [FDA] has tentatively determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, or trans fat, are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in food based on current scientific evidence establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat, and therefore that PHOs are food additives,” says the formal announcement made by the agency.
If this is finalized, the FDA says “food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell PHOs.”
That’s news that has the dietetic community happy as heart-healthy clams. We reached out to several thought leaders from the dietetic community to hear their reactions to the trans fat ban news first.
Those foods are suspect, not only because of the link between trans fats and cardiovascular disease, but because of wide-reaching inflammation from a host of artificial products. This could give people a reminder to eat real food. — Mary Hartley, RD, our resident nutrition expert and a NYC-based dietitian
“This is great news for the heart health of the U.S. Trans fat is not safe and should be taken out of our food supply. Even though many manufacturers have already stepped up and removed trans fat from their products, trans fat still remains in our food supply and we eat over one gram of it every single day. That small amount adds up and is dangerous.” — Retrofit Advisory Board Member Dawn Jackson-Blatner, RD, CSSD
This is a positive step by the government to take a hold of what’s happening in the food industry. Education can only go so far as to help people lead healthier lifestyles. In the absence of any benefit, products like trans fat just do not need to be in our food supply. Period! — Rachel Berman, RD, director of nutrition and health editor at About.com
It’s about time. Finally zero grams trans fat will really mean zero. — Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It
Trans fat was a man-made fat, and offers no human health benefits and is in fact related to health risk. These fats have no redeeming value and we can easily get by without them. There are many other fats that can be used instead of trans fats, which have been successfully removed by many food companies. Unfortunately, some food companies persist in using these fats in foods like margarine and popcorn. It will be a good move for public health to remove them from the food supply. — Sharon Palmer, RD
and author of The Plant-Powered Diet
Forcing companies to remove trans fats from food can minimize consumer’s exposure to these fats. Trans fats have been shown to raise bad LDL cholesterol levels and lower protective or good HDL cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, some scientists believe trans fatty acids raise total cholesterol levels more than saturated fats. — Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN and author of the upcoming book Younger Next Week
With raising the risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes to its credit, it’s about time the FDA proposed purging partially hydrogenated oil from the food supply! But keep in mind that as manufacturers remove the fat from their cookies, frozen dinners, fried foods and the like, they may replace it with palm oil, butter and other sources of another risky ingredient: saturated fat. So, unless the science shifts again, and clears saturated fat from any ill effects, be sure to check nutrition labels, keeping these numbers in mind: have no more than 15 g saturated fat on a 1,500 calorie-per-day diet, 18 g on an 1,800 cal diet and so forth. — Janis Jibrin, RD, lead nutritionist for TheBestLife.com and author of the upcoming book The Pescetarian Diet.
I appreciate the FDA’s proposal for cleaning up our food sources and preserving heart health! Trans fats [should be] no longer ‘GRAS’ (generally recognized as safe) and shouldn’t be hidden in foods, even in trace amounts. — Aimee Zipkin, MS, RD, CDN
See ya later #transfats! FDA says you must go. Hoping this is a continued step towards more good-for-you-foods — @katimorard on Twitter, owner of AroundThePlate.org
The public document released by the FDA explains in 26 thorough pages how it arrived at this decision, and backs it up with extensive scientific research. They point to the fact that the “elimination of PHOs from the food supply could prevent 10,000 to 20,000 coronary events and 3,000 to 7,000 coronary deaths annually.” Sounds worth it, right?
The math certainly adds up when you consider financial costs. The FDA estimates an $8 billion implementation cost to remove PHOs from the food supply; something that could be spread out if they provide a multi-year compliance period. If you look at that $8 billion as investment rather than cost, the FDA estimates a return of $117 and $242 billion in overall health care savings.
Such a trans fat ban already exists in New York City, California, Baltimore, and Montgomery County in Maryland where the results have been positive.