FDA to Ban Trans Fats, Citing Health Risks

The FDA proposed banning artificial trans fats, citing the risk of heart disease.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday suggested that artificial trans fats should be banned in processed food that includes cookies and frozen pizza. Photo: cas/Flickr

The Administration intends to require the food producers to get rid of all trans fats, insisting that they pose a threat to people’s health.

According to estimates and calculations, commissioner Margaret Hamburg claims, the suggested move would prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

The commissioner went on, adding that despite significant decline of trans fats in the last decade, they still “remain an area of significant public health concern.”

As The Huffington Post reports, the trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, forcing New York and other cities to ban them.

That’s why public health advocates welcomed the move.

“Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease, and today’s announcement will hasten its eventual disappearance from the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets,” he concluded, adding “industry has demonstrated that it is by and large feasible to do.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association reports that food makers have lowered the amounts of trans fats in their products by more than 73 percent since 2005,by reformulating products.

However, according to the numbers, unveiled by the FDA, Americans still consume significant amount of trans fats, though its intake fell from 4.6 grams a day in 2003 to 1 gram in 2012.

“Trans fats that are not naturally occurring have been drastically reduced,” the Grocery Manufacturers said. “We look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers.”

It is hard to predict which food manufacturer will be affected most of all, or count the total cost of the move, but many products well known to U.S. consumers are likely to bear losses.

Richard Galloway, president of industry consulting firm Galloway and Associates that has been working in the industry of soy-processing for decades, explained to reporters that switching formulations is quite costly and time consuming.

In general, “food companies take about two years from the time they are introduced to an alternative ingredient until they can commit to a switchover,” Galloway said.

“Hydrogenation is a chemical process that converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats. Partially hydrogenated oils extend the shelf life of foods, and certain types of popcorn, fish sticks, pies, donuts and pizza depend on trans fats for their taste and texture,” Reuters explainы.

Industry experts believe that coming up with other ways and receipts to manufacture food that contains trans fats will largely be a matter of trial and error.

Palm kernel oil, which becomes solid at temperature of 18-20 grades and has become a popular substitute for trans fats, might work in some cases but some products might have to be dropped.

“If this rule becomes final the impact to companies will include the cost of finding an alternative to trans fats,” concluded Justin Prochnow, a lawyer with Greenberg Traurig LLP who advises food companies on FDA-related matters.

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