With the backing of the Obama administration, the Food and Drug Administration is taking steps to almost completely eliminate trans fats as an ingredient in commercially marketed food products.
This ruling could apply as early as next week, forcing the food industry to reformulate a huge number of popular products, from frozen pizza to Reese’s Pieces. Companies have already complied with over the years, which over the past decade have resulted in a reduction of the use of trans fats by about 85 percent.
Leaders in the food sector are not convinced that low levels of trans fats are harmful. They have grouped together to write a food additive petition to be presented to the FDA requesting that some uses of partially hydrogenate oils be allowed in foods like cupcake sprinkles.
Partially hydrogenated oils have been in use in the US for over 60 years, and since they are considered a safe food, did not require the approval of the FDA. But in the 1990s scientific studies confirmed that eating trans fats leads to heart disease. It is estimated that between 30,000 and 100,000 premature deaths were the result of trans fat consumption until the time the food industry began limiting their use.
It is believed that the FDA will hold firm on its decision to rid the food industry of the last vestiges of the use of this ingredient, leaving behind only the smallest use of partially hydrogenated oils.
Sam Kass, former senior adviser for nutrition at the White House as well as the executive director of Lets Move!, said, “This is a massive win for public health.” He commented that the FDA estimates that the total removal of trans fats from the American diet could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and save about 7,000 lives.
“There are few targeted actions you can take in this space that have that kind of direct impact,” added Kass.
He also said that he believes the FDA ultimately will allow a negligible amount of trans fats to be used, siting the fact that no studies have been able to prove that such low quantities pose a health risk.