In early November 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its plan to regulate the addition of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) to foods.
PHOs, often found in processed foods such as microwave popcorns, coffee creamers, frozen pizza and many others, are a major source of trans fat in our diet; trans fat significantly increases the risk of heart disease.
Before it makes a decision about the safety status of PHOs, the FDA is asking the public for comments on the issue. Ultimately, if the FDA classifies PHOs as not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), food manufacturers will not be able to use these additives freely.
The news media described the FDA’s move as “banning trans fat.” But that is not really correct. First, meat and dairy products do contain small amounts of natural trans fat. Second, even if the FDA determines partially hydrogenated oils not to be generally safe, food manufacturers will still be allowed to add these substances to products as long as they seek approval from the agency.
I’ve seen some recent criticism of the FDA for supposedly trying to control what we eat. However, the government agency has an established history of regulating food additives. In addition, the FDA is simply doing what it is supposed to do—trying to prevent millions of Americans from consuming unsafe products. We should support the agency in this mission, and in continuing to use strong scientific evidence to help make food products healthier for this generation and the next.