Recently, the FDA announced that effective on June 18, 2018 all trans fats will be banned for all foods. They are no longer recognized as safe for any use in human food. The purpose for issuing the ban is to help get them almost completely out of the food supply with the hopes of potentially reducing coronary heart disease and preventing the occurrences of deadly heart attacks that happen each year. Since the published notice, food makers and restaurant chains will have to phase out the use of artificial trans fats within the next three years. Former FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, was instrumental in pushing for the ban.
According to the FDA’s Dr. Susan Mayne, director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, artificial trans fats lengthen food shelf life, prevent oils from spoiling fast, and extends the stability of flavors. This is a benefit for many companies in the food industry but it can cause serious health complications of the heart and arteries. The consumption of trans fats has been directly linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease and heart attacks.
Trans fats are produced through the process of hydrogenation. The liquid oil is heated, put under pressure and combined with hydrogen resulting in a shortening or buttery solid. High levels of trans fats are found in many processed foods like cakes, piecrusts, and even popcorn.
When trans fats are consumed, the trans fatty acids raise LDL-cholesterol, the bad kind, and reduce the HDL-cholesterol. This effect causes inflammation in the arteries and increases the risk of plaque buildup. It alters the functions of the heart that could potentially lead up to heart failure and heart attacks.
The FDA encourages consumers to decrease their consumption of trans fats from their diet and proactively check food labels that contain hydrogenated oils. As of right now, foods are allowed to label as having 0 grams trans fats if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fats per serving, including hydrogenated oils. The recent ruling states that after 2018, even these small amounts cannot be combined in foods without the authorization of the FDA. This public health announcement gives the food industry ample time to eliminate these unhealthy ingredients.