Tuesday, June 16, 2015

F.D.A. Gives Food Industry 3 Years to Eliminate Trans Fats By Sabrina Tavernise

WASHINGTON — 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 advocates and is expected to save thousands of lives a year. Trans fats — a major contributor to heart disease in the United States — have already been substantially reduced in foods, but they still lurk in many popular products, including frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines, coffee creamers, graham crackers and granola bars. The agency has estimated that banning trans fats completely could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. The agency has ruled that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, no longer be “generally recognized as safe.” That means companies would have to prove that such oils are safe to eat, a high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary. The Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of them, a conclusion that the F.D.A. has cited in its reasoning on the topic. Partially hydrogenated oils are cheaper than saturated animal fats like butter, and for years were 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, originally marketed in the beginning of the 20th century, was the archetype. But over the years, scientific evidence has shown they are dangerous because they raise the levels of so-called bad cholesterol and can lower the levels of good cholesterol, and a wariness set in among consumers. Trans fats won’t be completely gone. They occur naturally in meat and dairy products, and they are produced at very low levels in some edible oils during the manufacturing process, the F.D.A. said. And companies will be able to petition the F.D.A. for specific uses. Barry Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said consumption of saturated fat in baked goods actually increased from 2005 to 2012, a shift he said was probably partially attributable to reductions in trans fats. The fats are difficult to replace in baked goods because of their unique qualities in helping with texture. International New York Times