FDA petitioned to ban trans fats from American foods
- Staff writers
- Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, which cause thousands of heart-attack deaths each year, should be removed from the American food supply since safer alternatives are widely available, according to the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
- The consumer group today formally petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oil as a food ingredient and launched a major grassroots campaign to encourage food manufacturers to reformulate their products.
- Although small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in beef and dairy products, the FDA estimates that 80 percent of the trans fat in Americans'' diets comes from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (PHVO).
- Treating vegetable oil with hydrogen gas results in a fat that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature and that has a long shelf life.
- "When partially hydrogenated vegetable oil was first used in foods many decades ago, it was considered safe," said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
- New rules requiring food processors to disclose trans fat content on Nutrition Facts labels take effect in 2006, and those rules are prompting some companies to reformulate products or add trans-free versions to their product lines.
- Frito Lay has removed partially hydrogenated oil from many of its snack foods; Campbell''s Pepperidge Farms unit is introducing trans-free Goldfish crackers and other foods; Kraft is removing trans from Triscuits and many other foods; and supermarket chain Whole Foods sells no products that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
- Even Crisco now sells a trans-free version of its shortening.
- Only a few chains, like Ruby Tuesday and Legal Sea Foods, now deep-fry in trans-free liquid vegetable oil.
- "We, along with numerous medical experts and nutritionists, believe that trans fats are a major contributor to heart disease, and we support efforts to raise awareness of their health risks," Ruby Tuesday said in a written statement.
- Based on FDA data, CSPI estimates that 11,000 to 30,000 lives, perhaps many more, would be saved each year if those oils were removed from the food supply.