“…not generally recognized as safe…for any use in food.” This is what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had to say about the consumption of trans fats less than two years ago. The FDA has now taken a bold step to act on that assessment by outlawing their use by the food industry. While it is true that decades past have given the dietary fat, in general, a bad reputation which it did not quite deserve, this is not the case with trans fats. Nutritionists and savvy consumers alike have rightly been concerned about trans fats for years due to its negative health effects. In fact, unlike most nutrients, there has never been a safe “upper limit” for these fats, because according to leading experts, “any incremental increase in trans fatty acid intake increases Coronary Heart Disease Risk.” Analysis of studies on 140,000 patients even showed that as little as a two percent increase in calories from trans fats increased one’s risk for heart disease by 23 percent! (You’ll remember that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the world.)
Best guesses are that this ban will also stop the unfortunate 0.5g rule. Currently, any product which contains less than 0.5g fat per serving can be rounded down to have 0g listed on its label. So, if a serving of your favorite potato chips has .45g of trans fat per serving, and you have 8 servings (a pretty familiar scenario), you have almost quadrupled the World Health Organizations safe intake amount (2g), yet the food label reads 0 grams. It’s about time that pesky loophole ceased. Any time a food is "partially hydrogenated," creation of trans fats is an unavoidable byproduct. This is helpful information because even if a label does say zero when the ingredients list contains anything partially hydrogenated this means it does contain trans fats.
Regardless of your take on this crackdown by the government to further regulate the food supply, in their defense, they estimate that such a change will result in saving approximately 7,000 lives every year. But eliminating these fats from foods won’t be cheap, estimates are as high as costing food manufacturers 14 billion dollars to switch them out. However, the overall health savings from avoiding trans fats is estimated more than a quarter of a trillion dollars.
The industry has three years to comply with this new ban, so by June of 2018, we should be trans fat-free. However, manufacturers will still be permitted to apply for exemptions from the rule, though details surrounding what has considered a legitimate exemption is still unknown.
In the meantime, keep your eye out for these troublesome fats. One needs only to remember the “Big Catch” meal from Long John Silver’s from a couple years ago with its heart-stopping 33g of trans fat!