Yuma Sun

FDA tells food industry to phase out trans fats


WASHINGTON — Popular foods like pie crusts, frostings and microwave popcorn will be largely rid of artery-clogging trans fats after a decision by the Obama administra­tion to phase them out over the next three years.

The Food and Drug Administra­tion on Tuesday ordered food companies to phase out artificial trans fats, calling them a threat to public health. Consumers aren’t likely to notice much of a difference in their favorite foods, but the administra­tion says the move will reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.

Scientists say there are no health benefits to the fats, which are used in processing food and in restaurant­s, usually to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. They can raise levels of “bad” cholestero­l and lower “good” cholestero­l, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

The fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenat­ed oils.

Once a staple of the American diet — think shortening and microwave popcorn — most artificial trans fats are already gone. The FDA says that between 2003 and 2012, people ate about 78 percent less trans fat as food companies began using other kinds of oils to replace them.

But some foods still have them, and the FDA says those trans fats remaining in the food supply are a health concern. Among the foods that commonly contain trans fats: frostings, pie crusts, biscuits, microwave popcorn, coffee creamers, frozen pizza, refrigerat­ed dough, vegetable shortening­s and stick margarines.

To phase the fats out, the FDA made a preliminar­y determinat­ion in 2013 that partially hydrogenat­ed oils no longer fall in the agency’s “generally recognized as safe” category, which covers thousands of additives that manufactur­ers can add to foods without FDA review. The agency made that decision final Tuesday, giving food companies until June 2018 to phase them out.

Now that trans fats will be off the list of safe additives, any company that wants to use them will have to petition the agency to allow it. That would phase them out almost completely, since not many uses are likely to be deemed as safe.

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