It’s official: artificial trans fats are now banned by the FDA. Partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods have long been linked to heart disease, and the new law aims to help eliminate them from the American diet. Getting rid of artificial trans fats will, according to the FDA, help “prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”
Companies that use artificial trans fats have a couple of options: The first option is for companies to simply stop using partially hydrogenated oils. The second option is to petition the FDA to let them continue to use the artificial trans fats. This petition would have to provide proof that the use of the oils would not damage a person’s health. The new rules do not apply to ingredients that contain trans fats that occur naturally. Companies have until 2018 to comply with the new rules.
Trans fats are the byproduct of partially hydrogenated oils and are created through a process called hydrogenation. This gives foods a taste and texture — like adding thickness to frosting or cream to your sandwich cookies. Most of these types of foods, according to the FDA, contain PHO’s:
- crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
- snack foods like microwave popcorn
- non-dairy coffee creamers
- refrigerated dough products like biscuits and cinnamon rolls
- ready-to-use frostings
Trans fats do naturally occur in some foods, like meat and dairy products. Other oils produce trans fats at low levels during manufacturing.
The FDA has required that companies label the trans fat content of their products on nutrition labels since 2006. This has resulted in a 78 percent decrease in the consumption of trans fats between 2003 and 2012, according to the FDA. Until the new rules are implemented, the FDA encourages consumers to examine a product’s ingredient label to see if partially hydrogenated oils are listed.