The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced its intention to classify trans fats known as partially hydrogenated oils as not "generally recognized as safe" for use in food. The classification is set to go into effect after 60 days, after which the trans fats would be classified as "food additives" and could not be used in food. If that happens, the FDA states, food manufacturers would have an "adequate" amount of time to remove the trans fats from their product formulas.
Trans fats, specifically partially hydrogenated oils, are used in a variety of processed foods in the U.S. Though many U.S. food manufacturers in recent years have reduced the amount of trans fats in their foods, the FDA has now determined that the fats pose a public health risk.
“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,” said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, FDA Commissioner. “The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat. Further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year - a critical step in the protection of Americans’ health.”
In making its decision, the FDA pointed to an Institute of Medicine report that states there is no safe level of consumption for trans fats and that the fats have no known health benefit. Nutrition labels in the U.S. were required to list trans fat starting in 2006.
“One of the FDA’s core regulatory functions is ensuring that food, including all substances added to food, is safe,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. “Food manufacturers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in many foods in recent years, but a substantial number of products still contain partially hydrogenated oils, which are the major source of trans fat in processed food.”