FDA Bans Artificial Trans Fats — Here’s What That Means For Food

The FDA moved to ban artificial trans fats, closing the door on what one doctor called a “tragic story for the American diet.” The industry has already been preparing for the order for years — not even McDonald’s cooks with trans fats anymore. Still, a few grocery items will get hit hard.

The FDA will give companies three years to completely remove partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) — the source of trans fats — from their foods. According to CNN, the government agency says it should no longer be assumed that the formerly widespread substance is safe for human consumption in any amount.

Acting commissioner of the FDA Dr. Stephen Ostroff announced the plan in a news release.

“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans. This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

The Washington Post reports that the FDA is expecting big gains both in economics and in human health. The ban is expected to prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

The regulations will cost food producers $6 billion as they change their recipes and retool. But that amount is far exceeded by a projected $130 billion in savings from health care costs.

All companies will be required to comply unless they can show data proving their trans fats have no harmful effects, which will allow them to receive a waiver. Bloomberg reports that the FDA has yet to see data that even small amounts of trans fat are safe.

In many ways, the new laws won’t change food that much. From 2003 to 2012, American consumption of trans fats fell by 78 percent. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the FDA introduced trans fat to nutritional labels in 2006. Then, in 2013, they removed the substance from the less-regulated FDA category “generally recognized as safe.”

The industry got the message early. McDonald’s stopped frying french fries in PHOs over a decade ago. Many other fast food chains followed suit — like Chick-fil-A in 2008, and KFC in 2006.

Even Walmart has asked its suppliers to cut PHOs from their products by this year.

Still, PHOs have a number of benefits for manufacturers — they increase shelf life and enhance taste, and they’re cheap.

As a result, there are still some holdouts that will have to make more drastic changes.

Bloomberg reports that General Mills still has trans fats in its Betty Crocker and Pillsbury cake mixes — as well as in some cake frostings. ConAgra, known for its Chef Boyardee label, also has biscuits that carry PHOs. Nevertheless, both companies have removed the ingredient from the overwhelming majority of their other products.

Dr. Steven Nissen, who chairs cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, called the FDA ban an “enormously important” move.

“In many ways, trans fat is a real tragic story for the American diet. In the 1950s and ’60s, we mistakenly told Americans that butter and eggs were bad for them and pushed people to margarine, which is basically trans fat. What we’ve learned now is that saturated fat is relatively neutral — it is the trans fat that is really harmful and we had made the dietary situation worse.”

He added, “I’m terribly proud of the FDA for stepping in and knowing what needed to be done for the American diet.”

The FDA’s ban on artificial trans fats closes another chapter in America’s struggle to be healthy.

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