June 23, 2015 Leave a comment
Trans fats, the incredible, edible, flexible, partially hydrogenated jack-of-all-trades in the realm of high-production food stuffs, are on the way out. Following years of condemnation and increasing public awareness of the oil’s detrimental nutritional details, the FDA has finally banned it altogether. In a June 16 release, it began, “Based on a thorough review of the scientific evidence, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ or GRAS for use in human food.” This is something of a culmination, beginning with a 2006 requirement to list trans fats on a product’s Nutritional Facts panel, and continuing with a 2013 preliminary determination about the fat’s safety. Food manufacturers will have three years to phase out the ingredient.
Developed in the 1930s by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils, PHOs enjoyed widespread use for some time due to their combination of sturdy consistency at room temperature and longevity on the shelf. The solid yet creamy texture delivered the iconic center of Oreo cookies, while the nigh-endless shelf life meant “buttered” microwave popcorn that could sit around for ages before being popped. Add the fact that it could be used for frying and that it was a cheap alternative to natural fats, and the result is a product that could do just about anything. Besides contribute to human health, unfortunately. Between raising LDL cholesterol and thereby increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, increasing the risk of insulin resistance and diabetes, and possibly impairing infant growth, the FDA determined that “there is no longer a consensus among qualified scientific experts that PHOs, the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, are safe under any condition of use in food.”