Monday, July 13, 2015

The FDA Bans Trans Fats

Last month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a ruling that will effectively ban artificial trans fats from processed foods. The agency estimates that the move will reduce the incidence of coronary heart disease and reduce the number of heart attacks per year.

Artificial trans fats are created when vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated to create a butter-like solid. They became popular in the 1940s and '50s because they improve the texture, taste, and shelf life of processed foods and because they are cheaper than butter. However, we now know that trans fats contribute to the risk for coronary artery disease, just as the saturated fats in butter and animal fat do. The use of trans fats for deep-frying was banned some time ago, and most processed food products have already phased trans fats out. The current ruling will end the use of trans fats altogether in three years. The three-year phase-out period is to give processed foods manufacturers time to reformulate their recipes and modify their manufacturing processes accordingly.

There are small amounts of natural trans fats in beef, lamb, and full-fat dairy products such as butter and cream, but there's not much the FDA can do about that. The FDA ban only applies to trans fats added to processed foods, where the solution is to simply not use them as ingredients.

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