Feds seek to ban trans fat from foods

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 117 views 

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday (Nov. 7) that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) no longer belong on the list of ingredients generally recognized as safe. The agency has set a goal of removing artificial trans fats from processed foods.

However, many packaged food companies and meat processors like Tyson Foods Inc. have already eliminated them as far back as 2007, making the FDA somewhat late to the party. A well-publicized crusade against trans fat took place in 2006 when New York City was the first to restrict artificial trans fat in its restaurants.

McDonald’s was one of the first restaurant chains to eliminate artificial trans fat from its menu. Suppliers to McDonald’s like Tyson Foods said it successfully completed the conversion of its cooking oils to remove trans fat from breaded poultry products in 2007.

“This was done with an eye toward zero impact on taste or texture. While Tyson chicken products are naturally low in trans fat, it can be found in certain added ingredients such as cooking oils, which led to the reformulation of the company’s breaded poultry portfolio,” said Krista Cupp, Tyson spokeswoman.

Other restaurant chains like Popeye’s and Long John Silver’s have menu items that still contain artificial trans fat. The Burger King Whopper has one gram of artificial trans fat, which the company said is naturally occurring as it has been cooking with trans fat-free oils since 2008.

Long John Silver's recently announced plans to switch to trans fat-free cooking oil by the end of this year.

Oreo cookies, Little Debbie honey buns, Act II natural popcorn and Lays potato chips are among the thousands of processed foods that contain no trans fat.

 Other food products that could be impacted if the F.D.A. is successful with this ban include:
• Walmart Great Value margarine – 3 grams per serving
• Pop Secret premium butter popcorn – 5 grams per serving
• Sara Lee Classic New York Style frozen cheesecake – 3 grams per serving
• Betty Crocker boxed baking mixes 2 grams per serving

The routine 60-day public-comment period began Thursday (Nov. 7) when the F.D.A published its preliminary rule change.

“If F.D.A. determines that P.H.O.s are not recognized as safe, it could mean the end of artificial, industrially-produced trans fat in foods,” said Dennis M. Keefe, Ph.D., director of the FDAs office of food additive safety. “F.D.A. is soliciting comments on how such an action would impact small businesses and how to ensure a smooth transition if a final determination is issued.”

Artificial trans fats were designed to increase shelf life and have been linked cardiovascular disease, according to Dr. Pamela Peeke of the University of Maryland. Peeke told ABC News that there is no redeeming value to trans fat and every reason in the world to get them off the shelves.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

According to the FDA, trans fat intake among American consumers declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around one gram per day in 2012 as many company’s reformulated their products to exclude artificial trans fat.