Foodservice Equipment Reports

FDA Mulls Trans Fat Ban

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fat from the food supply.

Under the proposal, the agency would declare that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, are no longer “generally recognized as safe,” (a legal category that permits the use of, say, salt and caffeine). Some trans fats occur naturally. The FDA proposal only applies to those that are added to foods.

The proposal, announced Nov. 7, is open for public comment for 60 days.

Trans fat clogs arteries by raising the levels of so-called bad cholesterol and can lower the levels of good cholesterol. In 2006, the FDA mandated that artificial trans fat be listed on food labels, a shift that prompted many large producers to eliminate them. A year earlier, New York City mandated that restaurants stop using artificial trans fat in cooking. A number of major chains, including McDonalds, found substitutes and eliminated trans fat.

Growing public awareness has fueled lagging chains to take action; for example, Long John Silvers has promised to phase out its Big Catch fried-fish meal—containing 33 grams of trans fat—by the end of the year. Artificial trans fats still lurk in processed foods, such as microwave popcorn, desserts, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, led the charge against trans fat in New York when he served there as health commissioner.  The proposal is quite important: “It’s going to save a huge amount in healthcare costs and will mean fewer heart attacks,” he said.