Trans Ban: FDA Finally Comes Through
You probably heard the news. After decades of mounting pressure to remove toxic trans fatty acids from the food supply, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally took action to force food manufacturers to remove trans fats from fast foods and products on grocery store shelves. You may have been under the impression that a ban was already in effect, given that we’ve known for a fairly long time that trans fats are extremely bad for one’s health.
But that’s not the case. While it’s true that these synthetic fats are no longer as common in the food supply as they once were, their withdrawal was voluntary—not mandatory. Until now, that is. Thankfully, FDA has finally taken action and will force food manufacturers to eliminate all trans fats from their products. Even so, food makers have until 2018 to comply fully with the long-overdue ban. Until then, you’ll need to remain vigilant when shopping. Trans fats are still present in packaged and baked goods, some fast foods, and products such as certain brands of ready-to-spread cake frosting.
Trans fatty acids are synthetic fats that are created in a laboratory. They were first introduced to the public at the beginning of the 20th century. They were hailed as a breakthrough in modern food science, because they resist spoilage (meaning they have a longer shelf life than natural fats) and remain solid at room temperature. They appeared in popular products such as margarine and shortening. Also called “partially hydrogenated unsaturated fats,” trans fats have been incontrovertibly linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. They also appear to encourage type 2 diabetes, obesity, and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease. The more trans fats one consumes, the greater one’s risk.
In short: these artificial fats are toxic and may have been directly responsible for millions of deaths over the years. So, while it’s certainly welcome news that they’re finally being banned from our food supply, one can’t help but wonder what took FDA so long to act on consumers’ behalf and force food makers to remove these poisons. Of course, if you’ve been following my advice, you already avoid prepared and packaged foods whenever possible, so your intake of toxic trans fats is likely to have been low. Nevertheless, if you still own or use shelf-stable shortening, or eat fast food frequently, be aware that you may still be exposing yourself to an unnecessarily risky toxin.
Peter M. Clifton, Jennifer B. Keogh, and Manny Noakes (2004). "Trans fatty acids in adipose tissue and the food supply are associated with myocardial infarction". The Journal of Nutrition (Amer Inst Nutrition) 134 (4): 874–879. ISSN 0022-3166. PMID 15051840.
CNN website. Retrieved June 17, 2015 from: http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/16/health/fda-trans-fat/