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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to ban trans fats from food production for safety reasons, citing the additives as a significant public health concern.
The FDA has begun a 60-day consultation period in order to collect more data supporting its claims, and to give food manufacturers more time to rethink the products they offer consumers should trans-fats—otherwise known as partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)—be effectively banned.
The goal of the FDA’s research is to determine whether preliminary findings are enough to categorize trans-fats as food additives and to ban their use in food products without specific authorization.
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According to FDA commissioner Margaret A Hamburg, while consumption of artificial trans-fat has declined over the last two decades in the US, the current levels of intake remain a significant public health concern.
“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.”
The biggest trans-fat monsters are listed as popcorn, canned frosting, coffee creamers and baked goods. Exempted from a potential ban will be those dairy and meat products in which trans-fats occur naturally in small amounts.
Trans-fat consumption in the US has been a bone of contention for years, with negative media attention and rising health concerns pressuring the food industry already to rethink its products. Some experts estimate that we have already seen an approximately 75% reduction in US consumption of trans-fats in recent years.
The first step was the 2006 FDA ruling requiring producers to list trans-fat on nutrition labels for all products.
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So far, though, it has been city and state governments leading the fight against trans-fats, with the federal government on the sidelines. IN 2006, New York City voted to ban most artificial trans fats in restaurants, while California in 2008 became the first state to move to ban trans-fats entirely from restaurants.
Already manufacturers are spending millions of dollars in rethinking trans-fats and attempting to reduce their use in food products, but an all-out FDA ban would mean another, more costly rethink.
And when labels advertise “zero trans-fats”, the FDA says, zero really means less than 0.5 grams, which is in line with the current transparency regulations.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com