The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday said it wants to restrict partially hydrogenated oils—the major source of trans fat in processed foods and an important contributor to heart disease—from the nation’s food supply.
The FDA said in a statement that partially hydrogenated oils no longer fit under the agency’s “generally recognized as safe” designation, which includes other chemicals and substances such as caffeine.
Removing partially hydrogenated oils from the safe list would classify it as an additive and give the FDA additional control, joining a list of other regulated food additives such as the artificial sweetener aspartame.
The FDA’s proposal is now open to public comment for 60 days. Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of FDA’s Office of Food Additive Safety, said in a release that the agency is also trying to determine how the change would affect companies that currently include partially hydrogenated oils in their products. Trans fats (or trans fatty acids) are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association, called the FDA announcement “a tremendous step forward in the fight against heart disease.”
Brown said the scientific evidence is clear – eating food with trans fat increases production of “bad” cholesterol which is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Eating trans fats increases your risk of developing heart disease and stroke, and it’s also associated with a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
A study from the Centers for Disease, Control and Prevention indicated that avoiding foods containing artificially produced trans fat could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.
“The American Heart Association has long advocated for eliminating trans fat from the nation’s food supply, and we commend the FDA for responding to the numerous concerns and evidence submitted over the years about the dangers of this industrially-produced ingredient,” she added.
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