Food Industry Asks FDA to Keep Artificial Trans Fat
Petition Asks for Significant, if Smaller, Amounts in Some Foods
The food industry is fighting to preserve its use of artificial trans fat in a wide variety of foods. A food additive petition filed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association is asking the Food and Drug Administration for formal approval to use small, sometimes even negligible amounts of partially hydrogenated oil in some foods, such as pancake mixes. If the petition were granted, it would not result in foods that contain several grams of artificial trans fat per serving. But, if all foods contained as much trans fat as the petition requests, people would be consuming about as much artificial trans fat as they are now. An executive summary of the food industry's petition was first obtained by Politico.
"Americans are already getting unavoidable trans fat from naturally occurring sources in the diet," said Center for Science in the Public Interest president Michael F. Jacobson. "There's little, if any, room left for the industrially produced kind from partially hydrogenated oils. But companies apparently want to market foods with a quarter or half a gram of trans fat in a serving. For some people, such as consumers of microwave popcorn and Cinnabons, the amounts could add up to a significant health risk. Safer substitutes for partially hydrogenated oil have been deployed for every kind of food, so there’s really no excuse to keep using it."
The FDA issued in June a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer considered generally recognized as safe, or GRAS, for use in foods, estimating that the move could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year. The agency gave the industry three years to comply, and indicated the industry could file food additive petitions for uses "which industry or other interested individuals believe that safe conditions of use may be prescribed."
Although most manufacturers have made considerable progress replacing partially hydrogenated oils with healthier fats, CSPI maintains a Pinterest board of foods that still contain dangerously high levels of trans fat.