The FDA’s 2006 mandate to make national food labels more transparent spurred a national conversation about the outright ban of PHOs and trans fats. The FDA originally announced their plan to ban trans fats in November, 2013. This most recent announcement takes a definitive stance on the issue, and provides American food manufacturers with a three-year grace period to adjust their ingredients and submit any potential alternatives to the FDA for testing and compliance.
LDL: A Smoking GunA central component of the FDA’s case rests in the findings of the independent Institute of Medicine (IOM), which connected the consumption of PHOs with elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the bloodstream, which elevates the risk of coronary heart disease. A statement released by the Institute concluded, “transfat provides no known health benefit and that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat. Additionally, the IOM recommends that consumption of trans fat should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.”
From Transparent Food Labeling to an Outright BanIn the constant battle between government regulators, public policy advocates, and the food manufacturing industry, many advocates speak to the efficacy of the decision, citing the decline of trans fat intake among American consumers from 4.6 daily grams in 2003 to roughly 1 gram per diem in 2012.
A Victory for Public Health, A Setback for the Private Sector“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The FDA’s action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of transfat.” Hamburg elaborated that further reduction of trans fats in American diets could reduce heart attacks nationwide by up to 20,000 and preventable deaths from heart disease by up to 7,000 per annum.
While many in the public health sphere view the new regulations as a landmark victory in the public health sector, the American food manufacturing industry will not likely view the measure as kindly. For them, the new requirements mean untold dollars that must be spent in research and development, as well as in marketing and repackaging for certain products.