The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized its determination Tuesday that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, aren’t “generally recognized as safe” for use in human food.
Food manufacturers will have three years to remove them from products.
“The FDA’s action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency’s commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said FDA's Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”
The decision will significantly reduce the use of trans fat in the food supply, Ostroff said.
Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the Nutrition Facts label of foods.
Between 2003 and 2012, the FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 percent. The agency said that the labeling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in the reduction.
However, the FDA said the current intake of trans fat continues to be a public health concern.
The Institute of Medicine recommends that consumption of trans fat be as low as possible.
“Studies show that diet and nutrition play a key role in preventing chronic health problems, such as cardiovascular disease and today’s action goes hand in hand with other FDA initiatives to improve the health of Americans, including updating the nutrition facts label,” said Susan Mayne, Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
The FDA has set a three-year timetable for food manufacturers to comply with the ban. They can either reformulate products without partially hydrogenated oils and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of partially hydrogenated oils. In three years, no partially hydrogenated oils can be added to food unless the FDA approves them.
The FDA encourages consumers to check a food’s ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils to find out whether product contains them. Currently, foods are allowed to be labeled as having “0” grams trans fat if they contain less than .5 grams of trans fat in each serving, including partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods.
Many companies have already been working to remove partially hydrogenated oils from processed foods, the FDA said. It expects that many may eliminate them ahead of the three-year compliance date.