Trans fat is a popular buzz word in the news and amongst the health conscious. The fatty substance occurs naturally and has been commercially manufactured in our food since the 1940’s. Over the past two decades researchers have reported on its negative health impact. Many government entities have moved to either ban or restrict its use. Such political action has occurred here in Cleveland, Ohio, and in other prominent U.S. cities, New York and Baltimore, as well as across the globe in other countries, Canada and Denmark.
A trans fatty acid results from the chemical hydrogenation by which hydrogen atoms are added to carbon-carbon chains to reduce the number of double bonds. The process of saturating the carbon chain alters the configuration from cis to trans. The trans formation adds value to commercially prepared foods by increasing the melting point, shelf life, and flavor stability. In our bodies trans fats increase risks associated with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD). The experts agree that trans fats mediate changes in lipid metabolism, trigger pro-inflammatory effects, and endothelial dysfunction.
In November 2013 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced partially Hydrogenated Oils, which trans fats are the primary dietary source of, are no longer Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) for any use in food based on current scientific evidence; although removal of the GRAS status is not final until after the comment period in March 2014.
Generally any substance the intended use of which results in its becoming a component of or otherwise affecting the characteristic of any food is an unsafe “food additive” unless it is used in accordance with 21 U.S.C 321(s) if such substance is not GRAS. A substance is GRAS if it is generally recognized among qualified experts as having adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use. Moreover, Gras status of a substance used in food is time-dependent.
That time has come for partially hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids despite being widely used since the 1940’s in margarine, shortening, baked goods, bread, rolls, buns, French dressing, mayonnaise, cookies, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, frozen pies, etc. Health experts more than generally agree that trans fats are not safe for the health of the public as evidenced by published literature. For examples see studies published by the American Heart Association, the American Dietetic Association, IOM/NAS, FDA Food Advisory Committee Nutrition Subcommittee, the World Health Organization, the CDC, and NHANES to name a few.
Much of the food industry has begun to remove or reduce the level of the substance in their products. If removal of the GRAS status becomes permanent more time and money will be need to completely remove non-naturally occurring trans fats from our food supply.
This action is positive for our health but is only one piece of our lifestyle health dysfunction.
This post is not legal advice-No attorney-client relationship is formed.
Helen Rhynard Esq., M.S., RDN, L.D.
references: Federal Register/vol. 78, No. 217.