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FDA Bans Artificial Trans Fats in United States Food Supply

FDA Bans Artificial Trans Fats in United States Food Supply

Companies will have three years to rid artificial trans fats from their foods and drinks.

The FDA ban will phase out trans fats in the American food supply throughout the next three years.

We previously reported that the Food and Drug Administration might ban artificial trans fats in the United States, and now this ban will be implemented in the country’s food supply, according to the FDA. Companies will have three years to remove all trans fats from their food and beverage supplies.

The decision came Tuesday morning, when the FDA deemed that partially hydrogenated oils are not “generally recognized as safe” for human consumption. Stephen Ostroff, acting commissioner of the FDA, hopes that this move will improve the health and well-being of Americans. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year,” he stated.

Companies must now reformulate their food supplies to be approved by the FDA. The effort to rid trans fats began in 2006, when manufacturers were first required to list trans fats content. It looks like these trans fat-laden foods will receive a recipe revamp ASAP.


U.S. Trans Fat Ban Goes Into Effect. Almost.

The U.S. government ban on artificial trans fats went into effect on June 18, 2018 — a major food overhaul that's had food companies developing and phasing in substitutes for three years. Trans fats lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol, as well as increasing inflammation and the risk of developing blood clots — all of which can lead to heart disease, strokes and diabetes. Health experts say trans fats are worse for the heart than saturated fats. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration decided that trans fats were no longer safe, imposing a three-year time limit on their removal, and the World Health Organization just launched an effort to ban trans fats globally by 2023.

Artificial trans fats, commonly known as partially hydrogenated oils, were developed to replace butter. They're less expensive, more stable and less likely to go rancid than natural fats. Trans fats have been used to fry fast and frozen foods, and are also used in cakes, refrigerated doughs, microwave popcorn, non-dairy creamers, baking mixes, frostings, margarine and shortening.

Even though food companies had three years to come up with replacements for trans fats, and 98 percent of them have been removed from our food, not all trans fats are gone.

First, there are natural trans fats, which are found in beef, lamb and dairy products like butter. These foods contain small amounts of trans fats, and scientists are still researching whether natural trans fats are as bad for you as man-made ones.

Second, even though the ban went into effect this week, there are still residual products on shelves. It'll take time for those products to be restocked with their trans-fat-free versions.

And finally, there are a few substitutes still in the works to replace some of the trans fats used in commercial foods. Food industry advocates petitioned the government for more time to create replacements for some types of colorings, flavorings and non-stick sprays that use trans fats. The government granted a one-year extension on those, but all must be removed by July 18, 2019.

Replacements for trans fats include vegetable oils like canola, corn, soy and olive, and plant fibers and oats. But some substitutes are saturated fats such as butter, lard, tallow (beef fat) and tropical fats such as palm oil (which is a concern for environmentalists — producing palm oil contributes to deforestation and pollution). But saturated fat isn't good for your heart either and can lead to artery disease and heart problems. The best way to know what's in your food is to flip the package and read the fine print.

Removing trans fats from the world's food supply could prevent between 72,000 and 228,000 heart attacks each year.


US bans 'unsafe' trans fats in food (Update)

Artificial trans fats found in everything from margarine to cookies and frozen pizzas are not safe to eat and must be removed from food in the next three years, US regulators said Tuesday.

Also often used in frosting and crackers, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) contribute to heart disease and fatal heart attacks in thousands of Americans every year, said the US Food and Drug Administration, calling them not "generally recognized as safe."

"The FDA's action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency's commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said acting FDA commissioner Stephen Ostroff, confirming a 2013 proposal to ban them.

"This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year."

Partially hydrogenated oils carry no health benefits and the Institute of Medicine has previously determined that no level is safe for consumption.

Food manufacturers in the United States have been required since 2006 to include trans fat content information on canned and packaged food labels.

The law still allows foods to be labeled as having zero grams of trans fat if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, but FDA officials said that a separate effort is under way to change that, and that PHOs will no longer be allowed in any foods after three years unless they get a specific exemption from regulators.

The FDA has said the labeling rule and actions taken by the food industry have already led to a 78 percent decrease in trans fat consumption in the past decade.

"While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern," the FDA said.

According to Rebecca Blake, director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, the current labeling laws are misleading consumers.

"If one serving of a product has less than 0.5g of trans fat, it can be legally labeled trans-fat free. But are people really eating only one cookie or five fries? The servings often add up and the consumer ends up with far more trans fats in their diet than they realize."

Food manufacturers have three years to "either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs," the agency said.

By mid-June 2018, no partially hydrogenated oils can be "added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said it was pleased with the three-year time period because it "provides time needed for food manufacturers to complete their transition to suitable alternatives and/or seek food additive approval," a statement said.

The GMA, which represents some 300 leading food and beverage companies, is planning to file its own food additive petition to the FDA in the coming days, a spokesman told AFP.

"It will show that the presence of trans fat from the proposed low level uses of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) is as safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet," said the GMA statement.

"I think it's the difference between zero and nearly zero," said GMA spokesman Roger Lowe, who declined to give specifics about which companies or products still want to be able to use artificial trans fats in processing.

The FDA move bans artificial trans fats, not the trans fats that occur naturally in some dairy, beef and lamb products.

Consumer health groups applauded the FDA decision and said that artificial trans fat harms the body by elevating bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol.

"The eventual elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply will mean a healthier food supply, fewer heart attacks and heart disease deaths, and a major victory for public health," said Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson.

"The final determination made today by the Food and Drug Administration gives companies more than enough time to eliminate the last of the partially hydrogenated oil that is still used in foods like microwave popcorn, biscuits, baked goods, frostings and margarines."


FDA axes trans fats

Partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods — are no longer “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food, according to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration decision announced June 16, 2015. Companies will have three years to remove these oils from their products. The ruling does not affect trans fats that naturally occur in dairy foods and meat from ruminant animals, which is not considered as much of a health concern.

The new ruling on industrial trans fats “was a long time coming, but is still very welcome because it means that consumers will no longer need to be concerned that this toxic substance may be hiding in their foods,” said Walter Willett, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers at the School have long advocated for the removal of artificial trans fats from the diet. Work by Willett and others has shown that consuming an excess of trans fats raises the risk of high blood lipid levels, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other illnesses. Harvard Chan School researchers estimate that eliminating industrial trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent up to 1 in 5 heart attacks and related deaths. That would mean a quarter of a million fewer heart attacks and related deaths each year in the United States alone.

Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, called the ruling a “victory for public health” that will save lives in the U.S. and have a positive impact globally. “This represents an excellent example where evidence from nutritional research is translated into policies to improve public health.”

Efforts by Willett, Hu, and others helped lead to the 2006 FDA decision requiring nutrition labels to list trans fats. The change prompted many companies to switch to recipes without partially hydrogenated oils, but according to Willett, the amount of trans fats remaining in the food supply “is still likely to be causing several thousands of premature deaths every year.”


FDA action would effectively ban trans fats

The long war on trans fats may be drawing to a close.

The government proposed new rules Thursday that would all but ban the artery-clogging fats, a move that will force makers of margarine, frozen pizza and other processed foods to reformulate their products.

Under the new rules, the Food and Drug Administration has declared that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, are a food additive no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

That would require companies wishing to use the ingredient to first seek approval from the FDA, which is unlikely to grant permission given the volume of research linking trans fats to heart disease.

“The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.

Hamburg estimates an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths could be prevented each year by further reducing the use of trans fats.

Cities and states have been ahead of the federal government in seeking to eliminate trans fats. New York City voted to ban most artificial trans fats in restaurants in 2006. California became the first state to move to ban the ingredient from restaurants in 2008.

Still, the proposal could force thousands of businesses to switch to more healthful ingredients. The FDA rule is now subject to a 60-day comment period but is expected to be adopted.

Trans fats are vegetable oils that have been mixed with hydrogen to increase shelf life and mimic the flavor and feel of butter or lard. In coffee creamers, trans fats create creaminess. In crackers, trans fats create a buttery or flaky texture.

But research shows the ingredient is harmful to human health by raising levels of LDL cholesterol -- the bad kind. Transfat consumption also depresses levels of HDL cholesterol, which is considered protective against heart disease.

“Getting trans fats out of the food supply is one of the most important things the FDA can do to save lives,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has sued fast-food chains for using hydrogenated oils. “This is a biggie, and the FDA deserves a pat on the back.”

This marks the first time since 1969 the FDA has declared a food additive unsafe for consumption. Back then, the agency targeted cyclamate — a potent artificial sweetener found to increase bladder cancer, liver damage and birth defects in rats.

The federal government has required labeling of trans fats on food sold in grocery stores since 2006. And health campaigns have targeted Americans with messages to reduce their intake.

Restaurants have responded to the pressure. Yum Brands, owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, ditched trans fats from its cooking oils in 2007. McDonald’s and Burger King followed in 2008. Unilever, the world’s leading maker of margarine, eliminated the ingredient in all its spreads this year.

The result is that daily per capita consumption of hydrogenated oils in the U.S. plunged to one gram in 2012 from 4.3 grams in 2003.

Still, the ingredient remains in some foods such as frosting and shortening, which require hydrogenated oil to maintain their semi-solid consistency. Restaurants sometimes deep-fry food in oil with trans fat because it has a longer shelf life.

General Mills, owner of Betty Crocker and Pillsbury, said it had taken the trans fat out of more than 90% of its U.S. retail products. It pledged Thursday to eliminate the rest in response to the FDA’s proposed rules.

“This is a major development, and food companies will need to quickly consider and respond to this request,” General Mills said in a statement Thursday. “We will … need to move to respond quickly to the FDA on this question, and we will.”

Despite declines, consumer watchdogs and health advocates have still been pressuring heavy users of the heart-clogging grease.

In July, the Center for Science in the Public Interest said the fried fish, hush puppies and onion rings in the Long John Silver’s Big Catch meal contained 33 grams of trans fat. That’s more than two weeks’ worth based on the American Heart Assn.'s recommendation of two grams daily, according to the CSPI. The group called the offering the “worst restaurant meal in America.”

Long John Silver’s said in August that it would be trans fat free by the end of the year in an effort to become a “contemporary, relevant seafood brand.”

Joan McGlockton, vice president of industry affairs and food policy for the National Restaurant Assn., said in a statement that the group planned “to discuss the impact of this proposal on the industry and submit comments” as well as “continue to work with our members and the manufacturing supply chain to address any new federal standards that may arise out of this process.”

Consumer sentiment on trans fats is not uniform, even with the clear health dangers.

A new Pew Research Center survey found a majority of Americans oppose rules prohibiting trans fats in restaurants. Among 996 respondents, 52% were not in favor of a ban, 44% were in favor, and 4% did not know.

Some consumer groups accused the FDA of meddling too much in the food supply.

“Government paternalism is frustrating, especially when the government blurs the line between unhealthy and unsafe,” said J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the Center for Consumer Freedom. “No one says that trans fats are a health food, but that doesn’t mean they need to be effectively banned from the food supply.”


FDA seeks to ban trans fats in processed foods due to health risks

BOSTON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday 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 United States, 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 U.S. 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.

“We believe we have been and continue to be leaders in making good-for-you food, and we took steps to remove partially hydrogenated oils from many foods in our portfolio years ago, including moving Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn to zero grams trans fat per serving. We look forward to learning more about the FDA proposal,” ConAgra said in a statement.

Diamond Foods said Pop Secret offers products that are trans fat-free.

“On behalf of the Pop Secret brand, we at Diamond Foods are currently reviewing the FDA’s announcement regarding trans fats. Pop Secret currently offers products that are free of trans fats the product ingredients are on Pop Secret labels. Consumers can make a choice of which products they select,” Diamond Foods said.

General Mills representatives did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Richard Galloway, president of industry consulting firm Galloway and Associates and a 25-year veteran of the soy-processing industry, said switching formulations is costly and time consuming.

In general, “food companies take about two years from the time they are introduced to an alternative ingredient until they can commit to a switchover,” Galloway said.

Hydrogenation is a chemical process that converts liquid vegetable oils into solid or semi-solid fats. Partially hydrogenated oils extend the shelf life of foods, and certain types of popcorn, fish sticks, pies, donuts and pizza depend on trans fats for their taste and texture.

Coming up with alternative recipes for products that contain trans fats will largely be a matter of trial and error, industry experts say. Palm kernel oil, which is solid at room temperature and has become a popular substitute for trans fats, might work in some cases but some products might have to be dropped.

“If this rule becomes final the impact to companies will include the cost of finding an alternative to trans fats,” said Justin Prochnow, a lawyer with Greenberg Traurig LLP who advises food companies on FDA-related matters.

In Asia, home to the world’s biggest palm oil producers Indonesia and Malaysia, industry officials said exports of the tropical product will rise if the FDA proposal is approved.

“In the U.S., they use close to three million tonnes of oil to convert into fatty acids and if they have to replace it, palm oil takes over that market to a large extent,” said one Singapore-based edible oil trader.

Palm oil producers said the possible FDA ban on trans fats vindicates them after years of being kept out by the powerful soybean lobby in the Americas over concerns that palm oil brings about more heart disease.

“Finally, we will get a chance to get into the U.S. market in a big way after the soy lobby tried to block our shipments,” said a trader with a listed palm oil firm in Kuala Lumpur.

Palm oil exports to the U.S. have grown over the years as they are substitute for trans fat, traders said.

Malaysian palm oil futures slipped to a near two-week low on Friday as a bout of technical selling pressured prices. The benchmark January contract on the Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange slid 0.9 percent to 2,522 ringgit ($793) per tonne by 0730 GMT.

“It will be good news for Indonesia’s palm oil exports and bad news for other vegetable oils which have lower melting point,” said Derom Bangun, chairman of Indonesian Palm Oil Board. “Our palm oil exports could double to 40,000 tonnes a year.”

At the other end of the food chain, the American Soybean Association said that seed and technology companies have developed soybean varieties rich in high oleic fatty acids that eliminate the need for partial hydrogenation. “Significant quantities” of such high oleic soybean oil should be in the marketplace by 2016, the group said.

The FDA’s proposal is subject to a 60-day public comment period in which food companies are expected to outline how long they expect it to take them to reformulate products.

If the proposal becomes final, partially hydrogenated oils would be considered food additives and would not be allowed in food unless authorized by health regulators. The ruling would not affect trans fat that occur naturally in small amounts in certain meat and dairy products.

Companies wishing to include trans fats in their products would have to meet the safety standards applied to food additives and prove with reasonable certainty that they do not cause harm.

“GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE”

It has been more than half a century since U.S. regulations governing food additives were last revised. In that time, the number of chemicals in the food supply has risen from fewer than 2,000 to an estimated 10,000, many of which are never reviewed by the FDA.

Under loose regulations created more than 50 years ago to help companies avoid lengthy delays in getting food additives approved, the FDA created a list of products considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS).

Companies can either petition to get their ingredients affirmed safe by the FDA, or they can declare them safe based on their own research or that of hired consultants. The FDA has the option to challenge such declarations.

The FDA’s Hamburg said in an interview on Thursday that while the GRAS system provides the current legal framework for regulating food additives, the system bears re-examining to see if it is adequate to ensure the safety of the food supply.

“We do need to be thinking about what is needed to update laws and processes,” she said.

The agency is already under pressure to ban the use of caffeine in energy drinks. Caffeine was long ago declared to be a GRAS product in cola-type drinks. Yet the agency has not challenged companies to prove the safety of caffeine in other products or other beverages.

“Caffeine is one we are looking at very seriously,” Hamburg said, adding that the agency hosted a major meeting of experts over the summer under the auspices of the independent Institute of Medicine. “It’s an ongoing process but one in which we are deeply engaged.”

Additional reporting by Julie Ingwersen in Chicago, Naveen Thukral in Singapore, Niluksi Koswanage in Kuala Lumpur and Yayat Supriatna in Jakarta Editing by Marguerita Choy, Leslie Adler, Bob Burgdorfer and Ryan Woo


FDA tells food industry to phase out artificial trans fats in 3 years

In this April 26, 2011 file photo, doughnuts are displayed in Chicago. The Obama administration is cracking down on artificial trans fats, calling them a threat to public health. The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it will require food companies to phase out the use artificial trans fats almost entirely. Consumers aren't likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administration says the move will to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is ordering food companies to phase out the use of heart-clogging trans fats over the next three years, calling them a threat to public health.

The move will remove artificial trans fats from the food supply almost entirely. Consumers aren't likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administration says the move will reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

Scientists say there are no health benefits to the fats, which are used in processing food and in restaurants, usually to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. They can raise levels of "bad" cholesterol and lower "good" cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils.

Once a staple of the American diet -- think shortening and microwave popcorn -- most artificial trans fats are already gone. The FDA says that between 2003 and 2012, consumer trans fats consumption decreased an estimated 78 percent as food companies have used other kinds of oils to replace them.

But some foods still have them, and the FDA says those trans fats remaining in the food supply are a threat to public health. Some of the foods that commonly contain trans fats are pie crusts, biscuits, microwave popcorn, coffee creamers, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, vegetable shortenings and stick margarines.

To phase the fats out, the FDA made a preliminary determination in 2013 that trans fats no longer fall in the agency's "generally recognized as safe" category, which covers thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. The agency made that decision final Tuesday, giving food companies the three years to phase them out.

Now that trans fats will be off the list of safe additives, any company that wants to use them will have to petition the agency to allow it. That would phase them out almost completely, since not many uses are likely to be allowed.

Still, food companies are hoping for some exceptions. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the main trade group for the food industry, is working with companies on a petition that would formally ask the FDA if it can say there is a "reasonable certainty of no harm" from some specific uses of the fats.

The group said in a statement after the announcement that it is pleased with the FDA's three-year compliance period, which "minimizes unnecessary disruptions to commerce." The group has not specified what the industry plans to ask for, but has said the FDA encouraged food companies to submit a petition.

Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Over the years, they have been used in foods like frostings, which need solid fat for texture, or in those that need a longer shelf life or flavor enhancement.

They also have been used by restaurants for frying. Many larger chains have stopped using them, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.

The industry's reduction in trans fats was helped along by FDA's decision to force labeling of trans fats on food packages in 2006. But foods that list trans fats content as zero can still have very small amounts, since companies are allowed to round less than half of a gram of trans fats to zero on the package.

The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats 11 years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says that getting rid of the trans fats that are still out there could save tens of thousands of lives on top of those that have already been saved from reductions.

The decision to phase them out "is probably the single most important thing the FDA has ever done for the healthfulness of the food supply," Jacobson said.

Also contributing to the decline over the years are local laws, like one in New York City that restricts the fats in restaurants. Large retailers like Wal-Mart have reduced the amount they sell.

The FDA has not targeted small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren't considered a major public health threat by themselves.


Artificial trans fats found in everything from margarine to cookies and frozen pizzas are not safe to eat and must be removed from food in the next three years, US regulators said

Washington (AFP) - Artificial trans fats found in everything from margarine to cookies and frozen pizzas are not safe to eat and must be removed from food in the next three years, US regulators said Tuesday.

Also often used in frosting and crackers, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) contribute to heart disease and fatal heart attacks in thousands of Americans every year, said the US Food and Drug Administration, calling them not "generally recognized as safe."

"The FDA's action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency's commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said acting FDA commissioner Stephen Ostroff, confirming a 2013 proposal to ban them.

"This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year."

Partially hydrogenated oils carry no health benefits and the Institute of Medicine has previously determined that no level is safe for consumption.

Food manufacturers in the United States have been required since 2006 to include trans fat content information on canned and packaged food labels.

The law still allows foods to be labeled as having zero grams of trans fat if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, but FDA officials said that a separate effort is under way to change that, and that PHOs will no longer be allowed in any foods after three years unless they get a specific exemption from regulators.

The FDA has said the labeling rule and actions taken by the food industry have already led to a 78 percent decrease in trans fat consumption in the past decade.

"While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern," the FDA said.

According to Rebecca Blake, director of clinical nutrition at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York, the current labeling laws are misleading consumers.

"If one serving of a product has less than 0.5g of trans fat, it can be legally labeled trans-fat free. But are people really eating only one cookie or five fries? The servings often add up and the consumer ends up with far more trans fats in their diet than they realize."

Food manufacturers have three years to "either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs," the agency said.

By mid-June 2018, no partially hydrogenated oils can be "added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association said it was pleased with the three-year time period because it "provides time needed for food manufacturers to complete their transition to suitable alternatives and/or seek food additive approval," a statement said.

The GMA, which represents some 300 leading food and beverage companies, is planning to file its own food additive petition to the FDA in the coming days, a spokesman told AFP.

"It will show that the presence of trans fat from the proposed low level uses of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) is as safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet," said the GMA statement.

"I think it's the difference between zero and nearly zero," said GMA spokesman Roger Lowe, who declined to give specifics about which companies or products still want to be able to use artificial trans fats in processing.

The FDA move bans artificial trans fats, not the trans fats that occur naturally in some dairy, beef and lamb products.

Consumer health groups applauded the FDA decision and said that artificial trans fat harms the body by elevating bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol.

"The eventual elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply will mean a healthier food supply, fewer heart attacks and heart disease deaths, and a major victory for public health," said Center for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson.

"The final determination made today by the Food and Drug Administration gives companies more than enough time to eliminate the last of the partially hydrogenated oil that is still used in foods like microwave popcorn, biscuits, baked goods, frostings and margarines."


Why were trans fats banned?

The medical community overwhelmingly agrees that artificial trans fats shouldn't be eaten because they raise LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, and lower HDL, or "good" cholesterol. People who have diets high in trans fats are more likely to have a heart attack, diabetes, or stroke.

In 2015, the FDA said thousands of heart attacks and deaths could be prevented each year by removing partially hydrogenated oils from processed foods.


FDA moves to phase out unhealthy artificial trans fats

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is ordering food companies to phase out the use of heart-clogging trans fats over the next three years, calling them a threat to public health.

The move will remove artificial trans fats from the food supply almost entirely. Consumers aren’t likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administration says the move will reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

Scientists say there are no health benefits to the fats, which are used in processing food and in restaurants, usually to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. They can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils.

Once a staple of the American diet — think shortening and microwave popcorn — most artificial trans fats are already gone. The FDA says that between 2003 and 2012, consumer trans fat consumption decreased an estimated 78 percent as food companies have used other kinds of oils to replace them.

But some foods still have them, and the FDA says those trans fats remaining in the food supply are a health concern. Some of the foods that commonly contain trans fats are frostings, pie crusts, biscuits, microwave popcorn, coffee creamers, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, vegetable shortenings and stick margarines.

To phase the fats out, the FDA made a preliminary determination in 2013 that trans fats no longer fall in the agency’s “generally recognized as safe” category, which covers thousands of additives that manufacturers can add to foods without FDA review. The agency made that decision final Tuesday, giving food companies the three years to phase them out.

Now that trans fats will be off the list of safe additives, any company that wants to use them will have to petition the agency to allow it. That would phase them out almost completely, since not many uses are likely to be allowed.

Still, food companies are hoping for some exceptions. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the main trade group for the food industry, is working with companies on a petition that would formally ask the FDA if it can say there is a “reasonable certainty of no harm” from some specific uses of the fats.

The group said in a statement after the announcement that it is pleased with the FDA’s three-year compliance period, which “minimizes unnecessary disruptions to commerce.” The association has not specified what the industry plans to ask for, but has said the FDA encouraged food companies to submit a petition.

Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease. Over the years, they have been used in foods like frostings and pastries, which need solid fat for texture, or in those that need a longer shelf life or flavor enhancement.

They also have been used by restaurants for frying. Many larger chains have stopped using them, but smaller restaurants may still get food containing trans fats from suppliers.

The industry’s reduction in trans fats was helped along by FDA’s decision to force labeling of trans fats on food packages in 2006. But foods that list trans fat content as zero can still have very small amounts, since companies are allowed to round less than half of a gram of trans fat to zero on the package.

Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says those hidden amounts can still “add up to a considerable intake of trans fats if you look at the overall diet.”

For now, the agency is recommending that consumers take a look at ingredient lists on packaged foods to make sure they don’t contain partially hydrogenated oils. Once the three-year compliance period is up, in June 2018, none of those ingredients would be allowed unless FDA specifically approves them.

The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats 11 years ago. The group’s director, Michael Jacobson, says that getting rid of the trans fats that are still out there could save tens of thousands of lives on top of those that have already been saved from reductions.

The decision to phase them out “is probably the single most important thing the FDA has ever done for the healthfulness of the food supply,” Jacobson said.

Also contributing to the decline over the years are local laws, like one in New York City that restricts the fats in restaurants. Large retailers like Wal-Mart have reduced the amount they sell.

The FDA has not targeted small amounts of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, because they would be too difficult to remove and aren’t considered a major public health threat by themselves.

Left: Chann Kim, owner of Donut City in Lynn, Mass., has changed his flour mix and shortening so he can be compliant with local no trans fat rules, but he is having trouble finding a substitute for the chocolate icing on donuts. The change in product is costing him more, but he has not yet changed his prices. (Photo by Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)