The FDA is Expected to Announce a Ban on Trans Fats in Food Products Very Soon

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The FDA is Expected to Announce a Ban on Trans Fats in Food
The FDA is Expected to Announce a Ban on Trans Fats in Food

The FDA is Expected to Announce a Ban on Trans Fats in Food
The FDA is Expected to Announce a Ban on Trans Fats in Food

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to announce a ban on trans fats any day now, in a move that could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

The majority of trans fats come from partially hydrogenated oils, which, until now, the FDA has always deemed “generally recognized as safe.” The classification allows food manufacturers to use the oils in food without prior FDA approval. Under the proposed rule, the agency would reclassify these oils as food additives, which would require companies to gain federal approval before adding them to food products, according to CBS News.

“This is going to be a huge public health victory,” said Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which petitioned the FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. “It’s time to get trans fats out of the food supply,” O’Hara told CBS News.

Partially hydrogenated oils are used to improve the texture, shelf-life and long-term flavor of foods such as baked goods, microwave popcorn, nondairy creamers, frozen pizza, margarine and other spreads, vegetable shortening, and refrigerated dough products such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls. Partially hydrogenated oils are created by pumping hydrogen into vegetable oil to make it more solid, CBS News explained.

Trans fats are considered even more harmful than saturated fats such as butter because they increase “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduce “good” HDL cholesterol in the body at the same time.

“Trans fats don’t do anything good for us, and they are in a lot of foods that people like eating,” said Sonya Angelone, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If we get rid of them, it’s going to help people reduce their risks for heart attacks and strokes,” Angelone explained to CBS News.

Companies started decreasing their use of partially hydrogenated oils in 2006, when the FDA added trans fats to the Nutritional Facts label contained on products, according to O’Hara. The amount of hydrogenated oils in food products has been cut by 86 percent since 2003, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement read by CBS News last week.

“I think they’ve seen the handwriting on the wall,” Angelone said. “A lot of large companies have already moved to get rid of trans fats.”

The FDA’s latest statement, viewed by CBS News, said the agency “expects to make a final decision whether artificial trans fats, known as partially hydrogenated oils, are generally recognized as safe for use in food in the next several weeks.” Companies would still be able to petition the agency to use partially hydrogenated oils as food additives to preserve colors and flavors in some foods, according to CBS News.