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FDA takes step to remove artificial trans fats in processed foods


June 18, 2015
By Colleen Cross

June 18, 2015, Silver Spring, MD – Food manufacturers will have three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils from products, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which announced this week that PHOs, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food.

“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 FDA’s acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff in a news release. “This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

This determination will significantly reduce the use of PHOs, the major source of artificial trans fats, in the food supply, the association said. In 2013, the FDA made a tentative determination that PHOs could no longer be considered GRAS and is finalizing that determination after considering public comments.

Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the Nutrition Facts label of foods. Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 per cent and that the labelling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in informing healthier consumer choices and reducing trans fat in foods. While trans fat intake has significantly decreased, the current intake remains a public health concern. The Institute of Medicine recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally-adequate diet.  

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The FDA has set a compliance period of three years. This will allow companies to either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs. Following the compliance period, no PHOs can be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA.

Many companies have already been working to remove PHOs from processed foods and the FDA anticipates that many may eliminate them ahead of the three-year compliance date.