For many years, trans-fats were one of the dirty little secrets of food manufacturers and restaurants. The secret was that trans-fats had been proven to clog arteries and cause heart attacks. Which has led to the FDA ruling to completely ban the substance altogether. By June 18th, 2018 food manufacturers and restaurant chains will no longer be allowed to use trans-fats in their products.
“This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year,” FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Ostroff said in a statement. Former Commissioner Margaret Hamburg also played an important role in stating the ban.
So what are trans-fats used for?
The chemically altered oils are used to fry foods, and also as an ingredient in products such as biscuits, pizza, microwave popcorn, frostings, and other snacks. The FDA ruling means that after 2018 even small amounts of trans-fats cannot be in food products without FDA permission.
Trans-fats are created with a process known as hydrogenation. During this process, liquid oils are chemically altered, which gives them a look and consistency similar to butter or lard. The food industry and health advocates once believed that trans-fats were better for health than naturally saturated fats such as butter. By the 1980’s medical research had begun to show that they were not.
A debate ensued that did more to confuse the American public than inform them. As an example, many people still believe that butter is better for your heart than margarine. That was in fact, true in the past when most margarines were made using hydrogenated oils, but it’s a lot less true now. Butter will raise your cholesterol count, but margarines made using unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats will not.
The FDA estimates that 80 percent of trans-fats are already gone from U.S. foods. “But we still have room for improvement,” says director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Dr. Susan Mayne.
“The eventual elimination of artificial trans-fat from the food supply will mean a healthier food supply, fewer heart attacks and heart disease deaths, and a major victory for public health,” said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson.
Many food makers and restaurant chains have already begun finding substitutes to replace the chemically altered fats in their ingredients. This FDA ruling is sure to expedite the process.