Despite the fact that American intake of trans fat is down (good news), the Food and Drug Administration finds that the change isn't enough; according to a public proposal, the FDA is hoping to determine that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs, or trans fats) will no longer be "generally recognized as safe." Bloomberg must be pleased.
If the preliminary determination is finalized, the proposal says, PHOs would have to be approved by the FDA. This means, PHOs will be seen as a food additive, and if a product is not approved to have PHOs, it cannot be sold.
According to Dennis M. Keefe, director of FDA's Office of Food Additive Safety, this could potentially lead to the end of industrially-produced trans fat in processed foods. Currently, the proposal is available for public comment, as the FDA is hoping to hear how this could affect small businesses.
Of course, trans fats do occur naturally in meat and dairy products, as well as oils, but the majority of PHOs are used in processed foods like baked goods and frozen foods, meant to increase shelf life and flavor. For the most part, trans fats can be found in crackers, cookies, cakes, pies, snack foods, frozen pizza, vegetable shortening and margarines, creamers, and ready-to-use frostings, among other products. In 2006, companies were mandated to list trans fats on the Nutrition Facts label, and since then food manufacturers have phased out trans fats from their products.
If the proposal does go through, and trans fat usage decreases, "it's going to save a huge amount in health care costs and will mean fewer heart attacks," Dr. Thomas R. Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told The New York Times. Currently, the CDC estimates that 5,000 Americans a year die of heart disease because of trans fats.