Bye, bye trans fats

In June 2015, the Food and Drug Administration implemented a three year compliance period for the food industry to remove artificial trans fats to improve health and reduce coronary heart disease.

Food manufactures and restaurants that use artificial trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated oils, as an ingredient in their products or food preparation have less than two years remaining to comply with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandate to remove or reformulate food products to eliminate trans fats.

Partially hydrogenated oils have been used as a food ingredient since the 1950s. Adding hydrogen gas to vegetable oil is an inexpensive and easy-to-use method to turn liquid oil into a semi-solid or solid substance which is more desirable for many foods such as baked goods. Partially hydrogenated oils increase shelf-life, add texture to foods, and provide flavor stability hence the interest by food manufacturers to incorporate this type of fat. Initially trans fats were not thought to be harmful and research on the use of trans fats and their effect on the body was generally not done prior to the 1990s.

As American’s health and food products continued to be examined, the FDA instituted requirements in 2006 for the food industry to include information specific to trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label. Even today, trans fats are listed in grams per serving on the food label. However if there is less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving this amount was not required to be listed. That could be somewhat confusing as a small amount of trans fats could be actually be present in the food. Consumers need to check the ingredients list to confirm if partially hydrogenated oils are listed. Eating several foods with trans fat or several servings of foods with trans fats each day can add up quickly. Michigan State University Extension encourages consumers to be vigilant to read the Nutrition Facts label so they are well-informed about ingredients in the food they eat.

As research continued, the FDA announced in 2013 that partially hydrogenated oils were no longer generally recognized as safe. This ultimately led to the FDA taking action.

In June 2015, the FDA took action to remove trans fats in the American food supply based on long standing compelling scientific studies and research showing the consumption of trans fats is directly linked to increased plaque buildup in arteries, and a significant increase in the rate of coronary heart disease and heart attacks

Consumers can excpect to see food manufactures and restaurants comply with the FDA mandate to remove trans fats and reformulate the type of fat used in their products and cooking. Be aware that trans fats are found in many foods including baked goods, crackers, microwave popcorn, stick margarine, fast food, ready to use frosting and coffee creamers. Also, don’t hesitate to ask about the type of oils used to prepare food when you eat out. Having a safer food supply is vital, and being a well-informed health conscious consumer is essential.

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