Recently, in a consumer protective action, The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) issue a Federal Register notice with its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils were no longer “generally recognized as safe” or “GRAS.” Partially hydrogenated oils is the major dietary source of trans fatty acids (“trans fats”), the artery clogging substance that is considered a major contributor to coronary heart disease in the United States. Trans fats is produced when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid. The FDA’s proposal is open for public comment for 60 days.
Partially hydrogenated oils are found in many processed foods, for example: baked goods, frozen foods, snack foods, coffee creamers, vegetable shortenings and stick margarines, and ready-to-use frostings. Partially hydrogenated oils have been used as an ingredient since the 1950s to increase the shelf-life and flavor stability of foods.
Because of public health concerns, the FDA proposed in 1999 that manufacturers be required to state the amount of trans fats on Nutrition Facts labels on their products. This requirement became effective in 2006.
The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level for consumption of trans fats. It’s 2002 report found a direct correlation between the intake of trans fat and increased levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease. It was recommended that people eat as little trans fats as possible.
If the preliminary determination is finalized, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives subject to premarket FDA approval. Foods containing unapproved additives cannot be sold legally in the United States.
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