The FDA is now requiring the food industry to gradually eliminate trans fats from all food items. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner for the FDA, stated that such a bold move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths per year.
While trans fat is not a new health culprit and trans fat consumption has been increasingly declining since the last decade, the FDA believes the fat is still an area of public health concern. The agency has not yet set a definitive time line for the “phase-out,” yet will collect comments for the next couple months and then determine how long it should take. Depending on what substances manufacturers will choose to replace the trans fat with will determine how easy or hard it is to substitute.
Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods says that they don’t want to phase out trans fats in a way that will disrupt markets. However, he says that the food “industry has demonstrated that it is by and large feasible to do.” While trans fats have been removed from several items, the fats can still be found in more processed foods like certain microwave popcorns, frozen pizzas, refrigerated dough, cookies, and instant frostings.
Research has proven that trans fats have no health benefits and that they can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol. Higher quantities of LDL can increase the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Trans fats were first petitioned by the Center for Science in the Public Interest nine years ago. The advocacy group’s director, Michael Jacobson, says this decision is “one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take.”
The FDA says they have been focused on the phasing out of trans fats for about 15 years. The first step they took was getting them labeled; since then they have been collecting data in order to justify taking it off shelves completely.
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