US FDA seeks to ban trans fats in processed foods due to health risks

BOSTON/WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration yesterday proposed banning artificial trans fats in processed food ranging from cookies to frozen pizza, citing the risk of heart disease.

Partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of the fats, have been shown to raise “bad” cholesterol. Reducing the use of trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease a year, the FDA said.

“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.

Public health advocates welcomed the move.

“Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease, and today’s announcement will hasten its eventual disappearance from the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The FDA’s proposal is not the first public effort to ban trans fats. New York City banned the use of trans fats in restaurants, including their use for deep-frying foods, and many restaurants and fast food chains, including McDonald’s Corp., have eliminated their use.

Some European countries have also taken steps. Denmark, Switzerland and Iceland regulate the sale of many foods containing trans fats.

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