It’s official: As promised, the FDA announced today that it’s giving food manufacturers three years to completely eliminate trans fats from their products. The move comes after years of beaurocratic steps to remove the fats — which are often found in processed food in the form of partially hydrongenated oils — from our food supply (you’ll recall NYC passed a ban on trans fats in restaurants way back in 2006).
The reason for the move, of course, is that trans fats are really bad for you, with high intake of trans fats linked to all sorts of terrible conditions, including heart disease. In fact, per the Times, the FDA estimates “that banning trans fats completely could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.” The FDA has also proposed that trans fats no longer be recognized as generally safe at all. So for all you folks still eating canned frosting straight from the package, cut it out.
The reason food companies turned to these hydrogenated oils in the first place, you can probably guess, is because they’re cheap. Way cheaper than other fats, like butter. Yet, amid growing concerns over trans fats’ effects, many companies have moved to voluntarily eliminate them from their products. (Companies have been required to include trans-fat information on their foods’ nutrition labels since 2006, another issue that no doubt caused many companies to rethink their recipes.)
And yet, companies can still include partially hydrogenated oils in their foods, provided they can get permission from the FDA, which seems somewhat unlikely. Even though this move isn’t technically a ban, that’s effectively what it does. As one advocate of the move tells the Times today, “This is the final nail in the coffin of trans fats … in terms of lives saved, I think eliminating trans fats is the single most important change to our food supply.”