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FDA takes steps to eliminate trans fat

Trans fat in foods may eventually become a thing of the past, as the Food and Drug Administration took the first steps toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from food supplies on Thursday.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - Trans fat in foods may eventually become a thing of the past, as the Food and Drug Administration took the first steps toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from food supplies on Thursday.

The FDA says it has made a preliminary determination that a major source of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils, is no longer "generally recognized as safe."

If the preliminary determination is finalized, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives that could not be used in food without approval, according to the FDA.

It is illegal to sell Foods with unapproved additives.

Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and can be found in processed foods including desserts, microwave popcorn products, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamer.

Partially hydrogenated oil is formed when hydrogen is added to liquid oils to make solid fats, like shortening and margarine. It increases the shelf life and the flavor of foods.

Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, or shortening, has been used in American as early as 1911, but recently many food manufacturers have taken steps to limit or eliminate trans fat from their products.

For instance, McDonald's stopped cooking their French fries in trans fat more than a decade ago.

The company's website says all its fried menu items are free of trans fat.

The FDA says American consumers' trans fat intake decreased from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012. Even with the decrease, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a written statement, “Current intake remains a significant public health concern.”

Trans fat has been shown to raise LDL cholesterol levels, or the “bad” cholesterol.

The FDA has opened a 60-day comment period on the determination "to collect additional data and to gain input on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat should this determination be finalized," the agency said.

The determination covers only partially hydrogenated oils, not trans fat that naturally occurs in some meat and dairy products.

According to the FDA, trans fat is also present at very low levels in other edible oils, such as fully hydrogenated oils, where it is "unavoidably produced during the manufacturing process.”

The American Heart Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest were among those praising the move.

Avoiding foods containing artificially produced trans fat could prevent 10,000 to 20,000 heart attacks and 3,000 to 7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year, according to one study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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