No more trans fat: FDA banning the artery-clogger

Organization says prohibition could prevent 7,000 deaths each year
Associated Press
Nov 7, 2013

Heart-clogging trans fats were once a staple of the American diet, plentiful in baked goods, microwave popcorn and fried foods. Now, mindful of the health risks, the Food and Drug Administration is getting rid of what's left of them for good.

Condemning artificial trans fats as a threat to public health, the FDA announced Thursday it will require the food industry to phase them out.

Manufacturers already have eliminated many trans fats, responding to criticism from the medical community and to local laws, Even so, the FDA said getting rid of the rest — the average American still eats around a gram of trans fat a day — could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

It won't happen right away. The agency will collect comments for two months before determining a phase-out timetable. Different foods may have different schedules, depending how easy it is to find substitutes.

"We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. Still, he says, the food "industry has demonstrated that it is, by and large, feasible to do."

Indeed, so much already has changed that most people won't notice much difference, if any, in food they get at groceries or restaurants.

Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats. And they can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease.

Trans fats are used both in processed food and in restaurants, often to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in some baked goods such as pie crusts and biscuits and in ready-to-eat frostings that use the more-solid fats to keep consistency.

They also are sometimes used by restaurants for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.

How can the government get rid of them? The FDA said it has made a preliminary determination that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which covers 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 likely not be approved.

The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils. The FDA is not targeting small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren't considered a major public health threat on their own.

Many companies have already phased out trans fats, prompted by new nutrition labels introduced by FDA in 2006 that list trans fats and by an increasing number of local laws, like one in New York City, that have banned them. In 2011, Wal-Mart pledged to remove all artificial trans fats from the foods the company sells by 2016. Recent school lunch guidelines prevent them from being served in cafeterias.

In a statement, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said it was his city's 2008 ban that led to much of the change. "Our prohibition on trans fats was one of many bold public health measures that faced fierce initial criticism, only to gain widespread acceptance and support," he said.

But support is far from universal. A nationwide poll conducted by the Pew Research Center between Oct. 30 and Nov. 6 said that of the 996 adults surveyed, 44 percent were in favor of prohibiting restaurants from using trans fats while 52 percent opposed the idea.

Still, Americans are eating much less of the fat. According to the FDA, trans fat intake among Americans declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around one gram in 2012.

A handful of other countries have banned them, including Switzerland and Denmark. Other countries have enacted strict labeling laws.

Dr. Leon Bruner, chief scientist at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement that his group estimates that food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amount of trans fats in food products by 73 percent.

The group, which represents the country's largest food companies, did not speculate on a reasonable timeline or speak to how difficult a ban might be for some manufacturers. Bruner said in a statement that "consumers can be confident that their food is safe, and we look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers."

Said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg: "While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern."

Agency officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for around 15 years and have been collecting data to justify a possible phase-out since just after President Barack Obama came into office in 2009.

The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says the prohibition is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."

"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.

Comments

man_on_the_street

and yet they won't outlaw smoking which is the leading cause of heart disease in the USA, is highly addictive, and has NO benefits whatsoever. But fries, donuts and sodas over 16 ounces are EVIL.

Nemesis

Tobacco taxes are a big revenue source. For now it's profitable.

"The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to mainain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way, and you will see he brick wall at the back of the theater"
- Frank Zappa.

muec95

do u know Google is paying 80$ per hour! Just work for few hours & spend more time with friends and family. on sunday I bought themselves a Alfa Romeo from having made $5637 this month. its the best-job Ive ever had.It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out http://goo.gl/f6e95V

Unassumer

what they really want is to cut down the overpopulation. they could care less if you kill yourself. and they want the leftover people to be healthy to do the work in the camps after China buys us out or claims the U.S. as theirs since we owe them so much money. have to make room for the Chinese to live here, so eat, drink and smoke up!

Licorice Schtick

Nah. No room for Chinese here; Mexico doesn't allow birth control, so they dump their surplus population on us.

shucks

@ Unassumer
Too late for you. Sounds like you've got a few clogged blood vessels in your brain.

shucks

@ man_on_the_street

You have to eat to live.
You don't have to smoke to live.

Nemesis

Non-sequitur.

You can choose to smoke or not to smoke.
You can choose to eat whatever you want.

The New World Czar

"We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.

Why not let states have the right to decide? Nah, makes too much sense.

Nemesis

Why not stay the heck out of it and stop trying to dictate to people what they can put into their own bodies?

Licorice Schtick

That's ridiculous. The stuff is poison, and they've been lying about it. They've been stealing people health for profit. Why stick up for liars and cheats? Corporate abuse is tyranny. Safe food enhances our freedom.

Dr. Information

And smoking cigarettes is not putting poison into ones body. Seems the government picks and chooses what it wants to ban. They won't ban smoking because the GOVERNMENT IS GETTING TO MUCH CASH FROM IT! Talk about corporate abuse and tyranny.

shucks

@ Nemesis

Do you mean like : heroin , cocaine, meth, etc... ?

Nemesis

Well..... um...... actually...... when you put it that way.....

ABSOLUTELY.

If you want to put that garbage into your own body, that's your choice. Just don't ask for my tax dollars to be used to shield you from the consequences of your choices.

Should I be able to force you to exercise? If not, why should I be able to force you, though government, to make other choices that I think are healthy?

Licorice, it's not tyranny if you have a choice. There are millions of organic/vegan hippies out there who have never touched the stuff. If you don't feel you can make these choices on your own, then go back to your Mommy and Daddy and let them choose for you; don't ask me to give up my choices because you still need a nanny. Choices enhance our freedom.

shucks

Yeah , you're on drugs.

Nemesis

What a thoughtful, logical answer - yeah, right - typical for shizzle - the best you can manage is a patently false ad hominem.

I'm sorry you feel that you need government holding a gun to your head in order to keep you from destroying your life with drugs, but some of us actually have some self control and resent having our money and rights squandered protecting those who don't from their own stupidity.

shucks

I love your comments.
You come across with the air of intelligence ,superiority , and sophistication.
The fun part is --
...every time you open your mouth , your brains fall out.

Nemesis

And yet, you're somehow never able to articulate a basis for your namecalling and personal remarks. You're like Big Dog, lots of sound bites and snide remarks, but no substance.

I discuss personal responsibility and freedom, and all you can do is falsely accuse me of using drugs. I point out that you have nothing but namecalling to offer, and you prove me right with more namecalling.

shucks

"I discuss personal responsibility and freedom...".

According to you --heroin , cocaine, meth should be legal.
You propose idiocy.
How about making texting while driving legal?

If I'm a hypocrite, so are you.

Nemesis

Why is it idiocy? People like you thought it was idiocy to end Alcohol Prohibition, too. Support your claim.

I've said nothing that's hypocritical. The inconsistency is all yours.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

Subtitle: "Organization says prohibition could prevent $7,000 deaths each year"

That's an expensive death!

Good 2 B Me

I was thinking the same thing. $7,000 death.

bluestreakparent76

I think they meant 47,000 deaths and they tried to capitalize the 4. lol. I guess that's what happens when you hire right out of college. :p

Licorice Schtick

That's a lot of dead dollars! A travesty!

Señor Clown

I was thinking $7,000 was almost a bargain - with funeral costs being a little closer to $10,000, and the cost of health care for someone dying of heart failure easily running well into the six-figure range...

Nemesis

Hero Zone - that quote contains an interesting choice of words.

I believe we've been told before that prohibition could prevent a lot of deaths, back in the 1920's. Instead, it gave birth to the mafia - how many deaths did THAT prevent?

How many have died because of the new prohibition - the war on drugs?

Roger15

Nice to see a Federal Bureaucracy actually take an interest in citizen health and well-being. Too late on Big Tobacco, too lax on Big Pharma and far too cozy with Big Ag's GMO "food" offerings; just now being banned in Europe and Canada. Just keep paying their salaries, folks.
God help this Nation....

Nemesis

Because you need Big Brother to keep you from making bad choices, right?

worddrow811

when anyone uses the words lifesaving, saves lives or whatever, they are trying to make us afraid of dying. Well, guess what? No fear here and where exactly do they put all these lives that they save, in a bank? Stop living in fear people, nothing is going to alter that outcome, no matter the plastic surgery, eat/don't eat, smoke/don't smoke and so on.

Do the best with what you have and enjoy the trip.

shucks

reading signs -

Right ! After you've dragged around your paralyzed body for a lifetime that suffered a stroke , you die anyway.

Pages