We have been writing about the dangers of trans-fats in the diet forever and so you can imagine our joy when we heard the news today that the FDA has finally taken a stance on the matter.
The FDA has declared that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, were no longer “generally recognized as safe” and they are a threat to people's health. That means companies would have to prove scientifically that partially hydrogenated oils are safe to eat, a very high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is NO safe level for consumption of artificial trans fats, and they are the worst kind for your heart.
The move concluded three decades of battles by public health advocates against artificial trans fats, which occur when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid (e.g.Margarine). Trans fats are used in most processed foods and fast foods (think everything from cookies, chips and doughnuts to popcorn, burgers and fries). Companies like using them because they’re easy to use, inexpensive, act as a preservative for long shelf-life, and give foods a desirable taste and texture. Many fast-food outlets use trans fats to deep-fry foods because they can be used many times over in commercial fryers.
Trans fats raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol levels, and significantly increase your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Hamburg said that while the amount of trans fats in the country's diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, they "remain an area of significant public health concern." The trans fats have long been criticized by nutritionists, and New York and other local governments have banned them.
The agency isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take. Different foods may have different timelines, depending how easy it is to substitute.
To phase them out, the FDA said it had made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which is reserved for thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. Once trans fats are off the list, anyone who wants to use them would have to petition the agency for a regulation allowing it, and that would be unlikely to be approved
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