Source: New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday gave the food industry three years to eliminate artery-clogging artificial trans fats from the food supply, a long-awaited step that capped years of effort by consumer groups and is expected to save thousands of lives a year.
The decision (s) final and would effectively remove industrial trans fats from the American diet by 2018 — a change that the agency has estimated could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.
The agency estimated that the action would cost about $6 billion to put in effect but would save about $140 billion over 20 years in health care and other costs.
The food industry said it was pleased that the agency had given it three years to carry out the rule, but also said it planned to seek permission to keep using small amounts of trans fats in certain products. The agency ruled on Tuesday that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, were no longer “generally recognized as safe.” The Institute of Medicine had concluded there was no safe level for consumption of them, a stance the F.D.A. cited in its reasoning.
Partially hydrogenated oils are cheaper than saturated animal fats like butter and were long thought to be healthier. They are formed when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid. They became popular in fried and baked goods and in margarine — Crisco shortening was the archetype. In 2006, the F.D.A. required companies to list trans fat content on nutrition labels.
That year, New York City banned trans fats in foods sold by restaurants and bakeries; other (cities) followed suit. Many major chains, including McDonald’s, found substitutes that sharply reduced or eliminated trans fats, as did Crisco. The agency estimates that consumption of trans fats fell by 78 percent from 2003 to 2012.
Trans fats will not be completely eliminated. They occur naturally in meat and dairy products, and they are produced at very low levels in some oils during the manufacturing process, the agency said. Saturated fats are still an enormous problem in the American diet, and health experts emphasized that Tuesday’s action should not give consumers a false sense of security.
Barry M. Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said consumption of saturated fats in baked goods actually increased from 2005 to 2012, probably, in part, because of reductions in trans fats. The fats are difficult to replace in baked goods because of their unique contributions to texture. However, trans fats are much more dangerous than any other fat, Professor Popkin said, so the agency’s decision will still reduce disease risks.
“This is the final nail in the coffin of trans fats,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer group that pushed for the ban. “In terms of lives saved, I think eliminating trans fats is the single most important change to our food supply.”