Microwave Popcorn Makers Face Long Road With Trans Fat Ban

Makers of microwave popcorn could be the most affected by the FDA’s plan to ban trans fats from foods in the US. Popcorn is the source of much of the trans fats consumed by Americans each year.

It will be a long process for manufacturers to rid the fats from their products, though some, like Orville Redenbacher, already have. The brand, a division of ConAgra Foods Inc., spent six years changing its leading line of popcorn to remove trans fats.

Initial research and development of switching to trans fat free oil took four years and it took two more years to change the whole product line, reports Reuters.

Pamela Newell, a senior director of product development at ConAgra, commented that the process “took a lot of money,” since many replacement oil blends limited the flavor of the popcorn. However, she added, “We’ve mastered it, and I’m not going to tell you how we did it.”

CBS News notes that the FDA announced its plan to ban trans fats on Wednesday. The public and food manufacturers have 60 days to comment on the proposal and the agency is asking food manufacturers how long it could take to reformulate their current products. If Orville is anything to go by, other microwave popcorn makers can expect about six years of research and development to recreate their products.

The use of trans fats in US foods has dropped dramatically since 2005, and manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their products by about 73 percent. Still, the FDA believes that further reduction could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

Diamond Foods, which owns the Pop Secret brand, could face a long road, since half a dozen of its products carry between 4.5 and 5 grams of trans fats per serving. The ban will likely take years to go into effect, as microwave popcorn manufacturers and other makers of processed foods work to replace the harmful fat in their products.

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