When you add hydrogen to vegetable oils, you get trans fats. When you get trans fats, you get a more satisfied food industry because trans fats increase the shelf life of a number of foods.
You also get things like heart attacks and coronary heart disease. As a matter of fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that reducing the consumption of trans fats would prevent ten- to twenty-thousand heart attacks and three- to seven-thousand coronary heart disease deaths per year in the United States.
Trans fats are the worst kind for the heart, and scientists maintain that trans fats have no health benefits.
In the last ten years, consumers have caught on in a meaningful way and cut their trans fat consumption by 80%. Education, labeling, and government interventions have all had a big effect.
Storage conditions also have improved enough that trans fats are no longer a necessity. And now, the FDA has delivered what many believe is the death blow to trans fats.
Trans fats have been called a food processing disaster. Despite such disparagement, they have been with us for a long time.
A sector of the food industry responded proactively to the warning cries about health risks. But others resisted and caused delays along the way -- despite contentions by the scientific community that trans fats could cause sickness or even death.
Many feel the FDA was too slow to intervene in a meaningful way. They responded to the alarm by taking incremental steps to reduce partially-hydrated oils so that alternative fats and oils could be developed. In the meantime, identified health risks remained largely unaddressed.
The Final Phase Out
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that trans fats will no longer be in the agencies “generally recognized as safe” category, where food additives that are not subject to FDA review are listed. Once trans fats are removed from this list, they only can be used if the agency is petitioned. Approval would not be probable under those cricumstances. Companies would have to prove that the oils are safe to eat, but the scientific evidence challenging that contention is overwhelming.
Although trans fats have already been removed from many items, they are still found in some processed foods such as microwave popcorn and frozen pizza. In addition, some restaurants that use fats for frying still have them.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest first attempted to have trans fats banned nine years ago and now wants a timeline for final removal as soon as possible. Despite this desire, the FDA states it will collect comments before determining how long the phase out will take whereas all foods will not have the same timelines. The agency does not want to disrupt the markets, and some substitutions will be more difficult than others.
Living life well-fed,
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Published On: February 26, 2014