FDA trans fat ban: Proposal makes clear no amount is safe

The FDA announcement Thursday that it was moving to eliminate added trans fat from processed food means that microwave popcorn, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, cookies and ready-to-use frostings are too much of a health risk. Yes, even that coffee creamer is trying to kill you.

[Updated 12:39 p.m.: FDA officials say this move can prevent as many as 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks a year. If it’s successful in banning trans fats altogether, the FDA will eliminate scant amounts that still show up in foods. Manufacturers don’t have to identify trans fats when foods contain less than .5 grams of the oils.

Fast food chains such as McDonald’s stopped using trans fats when the FDA first required clear labeling seven years ago.

PHOTOS: Are you eating trans fats?

The proposal is now up for 60 days of public comment. After that time, the FDA will eliminate trans fats from the category of “generally recognized as safe.” If food producers then still wanted to use the fats, they would have to prove scientifcally that they were safe for consumption.]


The planned ban will affect other small restaurant chains that use the oil to deep fry food and to improve the texture of foods.

Many scientists and health officials believe there is no safe amount of trans fat. Trans fats are produced when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid. The result, artificially hydrogenated oil, is a culprit in clogged arteries that eventually lead to heart attacks.

PHOTOS: A brief history of artificial trans fat

Recall earlier this year when the Center for Science in the Public Interest deemed Long John Silver’s Big Catch the worse meal in America. The fried fish plate, with hush puppies and onion rings, had 33 grams of trans fat. The American Heart Assn. recommends that people consume no more than about two grams of trans fat per day -- which could be found naturally in milk and meat. (Long John Silver’s announced in August that it would switch completely to non-trans fat oils by the end of the year.)

Additionally, trans fat is believed to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. FDA officials believe eliminating trans fat from the consummer’s reach could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year.

The ban, if approved, “could, in effect, mean the end of artificial, industrially produced trans fat in foods,” said Dennis M. Keefe, director of the FDA’s office of food additive safety, on the agency’s website.

Through the years, the FDA has found ways to get food manufacturers to stop using partially hydrogenated oils. In 2006, companies were required to list artificial trans fats on all labels, inducing most manufacturers to stop using the ingredient.

Blood levels of trans fatty acids in white adults fell 58% from 2000 to 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.


Photos: Are you eating trans fats?

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