The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has finalized its determination that artificial trans fat is no longer generally recognized as safe for use in food.
Health advocacy organizations are hailing the long-expected move as a major victory for public health.
It is “the result of a sustained public health campaign that has included disclosing trans fat on Nutrition Facts labels, litigation, and city, county, and state prohibitions on the use of partially hydrogenated oil in restaurants,” according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
50,000 heart attack deaths a year
From the Center:
“Artificial trans fat forms when ordinary vegetable oil is hardened by treatment with hydrogen at high temperatures and pressures. That coverts a liquid into a semi-solid or solid (depending on the degree of hydrogenation) substance that became widely used in margarine, shortening, and countless other processed foods. Until 1990 few studies had shown that trans fat might be harmful to health. But then in the early 1990s careful, reliable clinical studies demonstrated that trans fat raises the "bad" LDL cholesterol, and lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol, in blood, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Subsequent research found that trans fat also stiffens arteries and may increase the risk of diabetes. Walter Willett and other epidemiologists at the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that trans fat was causing on the order of 50,000 premature heart-attack deaths each year.
“According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Americans should keep trans fat consumption as low as possible. Gram-for-gram, trans fat is the most harmful fat of all.”
No safe level
“The evidence is clear,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, APHA executive director. There is no safe level of trans fat. By FDA’s estimation, partially hydrogenated oils cause up to 7,000 deaths each year in the U.S. and should be phased out of the food supply as soon as possible. FDA has also concluded that the economic benefits of eliminating the use of partially hydrogenated oil greatly outweigh the costs of switching to healthier oils. Over 20 years, it is estimated that the benefits would total between $117 billion and $242 billion while the costs would total between $12 billion and $14 billion.
“This major public health victory comes after nearly 25 years of scientific research and advocacy on behalf of the public health community.
“A healthier food supply is absolutely critical in supporting good health and reducing chronic disease related to poor nutrition, overweight, obesity and food insecurity. Removing this source of industrial trans fat in the food supply will prevent thousands of preventable illnesses and deaths each year from heart disease," said Benjamin.