The use of trans fat in foods – already down by about 85% in the last decade – is expected to be mostly banned by the FDA in a ruling that could come as soon as next week. The move is part of a broader agenda from the Obama administration to move Americans toward healthier diets.
For more than six decades, partially hydrogenated oils – trans fats – have been used in food products “under the status generally recognized as safe, which does not require FDA’s approval.” However, in the last two decades, many studies have linked the consumption of trans fats to cardiovascular disease. The food industry believes that low-levels are safe.
If FDA sticks to its guns in its final determination — and most in food policy circles assume it will — the agency will be taking a firm step toward pushing out more of the remaining uses of trans fat.
“This is a massive win for public health,” said Sam Kass, the former senior adviser for nutrition at the White House and executive director of Let’s Move!, noting that FDA has estimated removing trans fat could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and some 7,000 deaths.
“There are few targeted actions you can take in this space that have that kind of direct impact,” said Kass. He said he expects FDA will ultimately allow negligible uses of trans fat, because there’s no science that shows such levels are harmful.
The policy does not target the naturally occurring trans fats that are found in meat and dairy.
One of the unintended effects of the policy may be the environmental consequences. Some food companies use palm oil as a substitute for partially hydrogenated oils. This increases the demand for palm oil, which may mean clearing rainforests for more production.