FDA Takes Harsh Stance on Trans Fats

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a ruling that proposes the application of limitation to the use of trans fats in foods. If it should pass, it would require that special approval be granted in order to use trans fats in food. At the moment, the proposal remains open for comment from the public.

The reason that the FDA is placing such a significant priority on the reduction of the use of trans fats is that it is widely believed that they increase the presence of two artery-clogging compounds within the blood when they have been consumed in food. The first is lipoprotein(a), which is a form of fat-protein particle. The second is triglycerides.

The move from the FDA, if put into place, would effectively eliminate the majority of trans fats from the entire American food supply. The administration has already determined that partially hydrogenated oils, one of the largest sources of trans fats, are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) anymore. Removing partially hydrogenated oils from food products will lead to widespread changes in the food industry, as they are currently used broadly in processed foods such as margarine, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, desserts, and even coffee creamer.

Without special approval, none of those products would be able to use food additives with trans fats. Should they be used without approval, those foods will not be able to be legally sold as they have been linked to a greater risk of heart disease.

Trans fats do occur naturally in foods such as some dairy products (milk, cheese, butter, beef, chicken, pork, and lamb. Research indicates that levels are typically low and are not as harmful in their naturally occurring forms as they are in artificial trans fats. These “hidden” artificial trans fats are in products from pancake mix to creamy drinks and shakes, pie crusts, gravy mixes, croutons, hot chocolate, cereal, fried foods, and many others.

New York City has already passed a similar limitation to the one that the FDA is currently proposing and it has already started to yield benefits. For the last five years, the city has banned the use of trans fats in its restaurants. As a result of this ban, many chains have decided to simply eliminate the fats from their menus altogether, on a nationwide level. Other cities, including Philadelphia and Cleveland, as well as the state of California have enacted similar rulings.

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So far, it appears that the ban has been having the impact that was intended by its implementation. A new analysis has estimated that the trans fats in restaurant meals have now dropped from around 3 grams per meal to 0.5 grams—an amount that is typically considered to be negligible.

Mark Cutler is the Director of Sales & Marketing for Zone Labs in Marblehead, MA. He received his Bachelors of Arts degree in Communications from University of Massachusetts Amherst. Mark has spent the past 12 years working in the diet, wellness, and supplement industry with a focus on omega 3 fatty acids and insulin control.