Move to ban trans fats in processed foods
Washington, November 8, 2013
The US Food and Drug Administration has proposed banning artificial trans fats in processed food ranging from cookies to frozen pizza, citing the risk of heart disease.
Partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of the fats, have been shown to raise "bad" cholesterol. Reducing the use of trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease a year, the FDA said.
"While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the US, current intake remains a significant public health concern," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.
Public health advocates welcomed the move.
"Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease, and today's announcement will hasten its eventual disappearance from the food supply," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The FDA's proposal is not the first public effort to ban trans fats. New York City banned the use of trans fats in restaurants, including their use for deep-frying foods, and many restaurants and fast food chains, including McDonald's Corp, have eliminated their use.
Some European countries have also taken steps. Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland regulate the sale of many foods containing trans fats.
Products that still contain trans fats include some varieties of crackers, refrigerated dough, coffee creamers and ready-to-use frosting, among others. Some products will be harder to reformulate than others, FDA officials said.
"We know that technically this is not an insoluble problem," Hamburg told reporters on a conference call, adding that the use of trans fats has declined dramatically since 2006, when the agency required that trans fat levels be disclosed on package labels.
According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their food products by more than 73 percent since 2005, in part by reformulating products. The FDA said the average daily intake of trans fats by Americans fell from 4.6 grams a day in 2003 to 1 gram in 2012.
"Trans fats that are not naturally occurring have been drastically reduced," the Grocery Manufacturers said. "We look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers."
It was unclear which companies would be hit hardest, or what the total cost will be, but many products well known to US consumers are likely to be affected.
Among products singled out by the Center for Science in the Public Interest were various Marie Callender's pies, made by ConAgra Foods Inc ; Diamond Foods' Pop Secret microwave popcorn; and cinnamon rolls from Pillsbury Co, owned by General Mills. - Reuters