In 2013 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out a preliminary notice that partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) were no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS). The FDA has now finalized that notice and has given food manufacturers three years to reformulate their products without partially hydrogenated oils or to petition the FDA to allow specific uses of these oils.
Trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. Trans fat may also have other adverse health effects, including lowering high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good") cholesterol. It's predicted that eliminating trans fat in manufactured foods could prevent up to 20,000 cases of coronary heart disease and up to 7,000 deaths annually in the U.S.
In light of the growing consensus about the negative effects of trans fat and the requirement that it be listed on food labels, many food companies had already begun reducing the amount of partially hydrogenated oils used in their products. In many cases, they have replaced these oils with tropical oils such as palm, mostly saturated fats. Saturated fats are thought to raise blood cholesterol levels as well.
You don't have to wait for the food companies to remove partially hydrogenated oils. Start now by cutting back on the number of processed foods you buy.
When you're grocery shopping, check the Nutrition Facts label, especially on baked goods, such as cookies and cakes, frostings, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, coffee creamer, stick margarine, and some refrigerated dough, to find out how much trans and saturated fat a food contains. Even if the label lists zero grams of trans fat, the food may contain a small amount, so check the ingredient list too. If you see any type of partially hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient, leave that product on the shelf.
Does the FDA announcement surprise you? Do you read food labels? Does this change your view on processed foods and ingredients? Please share your thoughts.
Originally published Feb. 1, 2014. Updated June 17, 2015.
June 17, 2015