UPDATE: Partially Hydrogenated Oils

In a previous update on November 11, 2013, Dolly Sevier brought to our attention the tentative determination by the FDA that our primary dietary source of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS), with the ultimate plan to mandate the removal of PHOs from all food products. In the announcement, the FDA made a call for public comment on this determination. 

Since November, the FDA has collected 123 comments on this issue. Numerous food manufacturing agencies have spoken out against this determination. The American Bakers Association calls the FDA’s determination “extreme, unprecedented, and unnecessary … and (it) sets an unlawful standard.” General Mills argues that “current low intakes of trans fats are safe,” and it recommends instead an increase in the regulation of labeling of PHOs and trans fats in nutrition labels.

In contrast, comments from members of the medical community have largely supported the FDA’s determination. The American Medical Association points to studies that show that “consumption of trans fats has been conclusively linked to … atherosclerosis and … coronary heart disease,” and says that calling PHOs “no longer GRAS is a step in the right direction.” The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology similarly note that “eliminating trans fat from the diet could … prevent 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks” each year. Several comments falling on both sides of the argument have also come from interested individuals, and examples can be found here and here.

You can read those comments in full by clicking on the links above. Additionally, you can read more about the debate from Food Business News in a recent article here, and they also covered the American Bakers Association comment here. An opinion piece from a pediatrician published on CNN was largely supportive of the determination. Finally, you can read what the FDA has to say about trans fat in a post for consumers from March 2014. The FDA is in the process of reviewing all of the comments and will then make their final determination.

by John Ligon, MD

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