Jun 18, 2015

    US to ban artificial trans fats in food


    ARTIFICIAL trans fats, found in everything from margarine to cookies and frozen pizzas, are not safe to eat and must be removed from food in the next three years, United States regulators said on Tuesday.

    Also often used in frosting and crackers, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) contribute to heart disease and fatal heart attacks in thousands of Americans every year, said the US Food and Drug Administration, calling them not "generally recognised as safe".

    "The FDA's action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency's commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said acting FDA commissioner Stephen Ostroff, confirming a 2013 proposal to ban them.

    "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year."

    PHOs carry no health benefits and the Institute of Medicine previously determined that no level is safe for consumption.

    Food manufacturers in the US have been required since 2006 to include trans fat content information on canned and packaged food labels.

    The law still allows foods to be labelled as having zero grams of trans fat if they contain less than 0.5g of trans fat per serving, but FDA officials said that a separate effort is under way to change that, and that PHOs will no longer be allowed in any foods after three years unless they get a specific exemption from regulators.

    The FDA has said the labelling rule and actions taken by the food industry have already led to a 78 per cent decrease in trans fat consumption in the past decade.

    "While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern," the FDA said.

    Food manufacturers have three years to "either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs", the agency said.

    By mid-June 2018, no PHOs can be "added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA".

    The FDA move bans artificial trans fats, not the trans fats that occur naturally in some dairy, beef and lamb products.

    Consumer health groups applauded the FDA decision and said that artificial trans fat harms the body by elevating bad cholesterol and lowering good cholesterol.

    "The eventual elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply will mean a healthier food supply, fewer heart attacks and heart disease deaths, and a major victory for public health," said Centre for Science in the Public Interest executive director Michael Jacobson.