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FDA moves to ban trans fats – New York Times

Posted in FDA Regulation, Public Health

A November 7th New York Times article by Sabrina Tavernise discusses the recent FDA ruling surrounding trans fats.

Nutrition is an ever-changing area of research.  Many of the guides to healthy cooking and eating methods once thought ideal are now seen to be quite unhealthy and harmful to our health.  During the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s, trans fats exploded onto the American scene and were heavily used in major food chains and in popular foods we ate.  And this made economic sense: saturated fats such as butter (animal fat), are more expensive than partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats).

Now, heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States, and health consciousness is becoming increasingly popular.  Rightly so.  While artificial trans fats have been significantly reduced in the everyday foods Americans eat, they are still found in microwave popcorn, frozen foods, and margarine.

However, writes Tavernise, “The Food and Drug Administration proposed measures on Thursday that would all but eliminate artery-clogging, artificial trans fats from the food supply, the culmination of three decades of effort by public health advocates to get the government to take action against them.”

Some experts believe that if trans fats were eliminated in the American diet, there would be 20,000 less heart attacks each year.  Though the American populace believed for many years that trans fats were healthy and safe to use, we must rid ourselves of this notion.  Medical research has determined there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, and that trans fats carry no nutritional value.  Now, the FDA “has proposed that partially hydrogenated oils, the source of trans fats, no longer be ‘generally recognized as safe.’”

The link between trans fats and heart attack is now being further explored, and in some places the use of trans fats is already illegal.  An F.D.A ruling in 2003 required food that contains trans fats to be properly labeled as such. (Foods that contain less that 0.5 grams per serving are labeled as containing 0.0 grams of trans fat, in general.)  Not long after, cities such as Cleveland, New York, and California established a similar stance on trans fats and are encouraging the practice of banning the use and sale altogether.  The steps taken by the F.D.A and like-minded cities have already produced beneficial results.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has claimed the blood levels of trans fats for many Americans has been reduced.  In 2006, Americans were eating an average of 4.6 grams a day.  We now see that number is down to 1.0 gram per day.

Thankfully, the freedom of American corporations is here limited in favor of better health for all.