In a move that it says is designed to protect the heart health of Americans, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that food manufactures have three years to remove artificial trans fats from the nation’s food supply.
The FDA ruled that partially hydrogenated oils - the major source of trans fats in the American diet - are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” the designation that for decades has allowed companies to use the oils in a wide variety of food products.
The FDA has estimated that removing partially hydrogenated oils from food could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease every year.
Partially hydrogenated oils are most often found in processed foods such as baked goods like cakes, cookies, and pies; non-dairy creamers; microwave popcorn; frozen pizza; margarine and other spreads; vegetable shortenings; and refrigerated dough products like biscuits and cinnamon rolls.
Companies have until June 18, 2018, to either reformulate their products and remove all partially hydrogenated oils, or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of the oils, the agency said Tuesday.
Food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of partially hydrogenated oils in food products by 86% since 2003, and continue to remove them from products, according to the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
Despite this, even savvy consumers still are being exposed to minute levels of trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils, added Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
That’s because under current rules, products that have less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving are labeled as zero grams of trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label.
“Even if consumers choose food products that say they have zero grams of trans fats on the label, they still can be getting small amounts of partially hydrogenated oil that can add up to a considerable intake of trans fat when you look at the overall diet,” Mayne said.
Dr. George Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, praised the FDA’s announcement, calling it the result of “nearly 25 years of scientific research and advocacy.”
“The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of trans fat,” Benjamin said in a statement. “Removing this source of industrial trans fat in the food supply will prevent thousands of preventable illnesses and deaths each year from heart disease.”
Trans fats have cross links or “trans” links between many of the carbon atoms that make up the main structure of fats. The human body cannot readily break these trans links.
The half-life of a trans fat in the human body is 45 days and it takes 5 half-lives to eliminate the fat completely. So those French fries you ate yesterday will be with you well into next year.
The Bottom Line:
Trans fats are used because they are so hard to break down. This is what gives the food a much longer shelf life. Even nature has difficultly oxidizing trans fats. If the bugs won’t eat it, why would you?
Source: June 16 2015 National Institutes of Health