No Trans Fat in USA by June 2018

In an effort to save thousands of lives each year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced a complete ban on trans fat in food across USA by mid-2018. 

Food manufacturers will have three years to completely phase out the deadly trans fat from their ready-to-serve meals and snacks.

Trans fat is a common ingredient in processed foods — like doughnuts, pies, microwave popcorn, and frozen pizza — that is a cheap way to prolong a product’s shelf life. The ban comes with ample scientific evidence that trans fats are not healthy.

FDA officials say even very small quantities of trans fats can add up to dangerous levels and will not permit the ingredient without an exemption.

“Doctors estimate that eradicating trans fats would prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart attacks per year,” cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told USA Today. 

This is a huge move for the FDA — one that will make it easier for people in America to eat healthier. 

It has been almost a decade since former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg led the charge to ban trans fats. This deadly ingredient had been outlawed in NYC restaurants since 2006.

Seven years later, the Obama administration has seen the wisdom in that course, declaring that partially hydrogenated oils — a big source of trans-fats — are not generally safe.

“It’s about time,” cheered Dr. Thomas Farley, Bloomberg’s health commissioner and author of the forthcoming book “Saving Gotham,” on the city’s food-policing policies. 

“Trans-fat is an artificial chemical,” he said. “It never should have gotten into our food supply in the first place. It’s toxic over the long term and it’s easy to get rid of.”

Unlike his attempt to limit sugary drinks, Bloomberg was successful in sounding the first municipal alarm on trans-fat and banned it from restaurant cooking.

Bloomberg’s fat ban — among the many health crusades he undertook during his three terms as mayor — was so controversial at the time, the National Restaurant Association called it “a misguided attempt at social engineering by a group of physicians who don’t understand the restaurant industry.”

Some groups such as the the Popcorn Institute, the National Frozen Pizza Institute and the International Chewing Gum Association are complaining that the FDA trans fat ban infringes upon their freedom of choice.

A restaurateur, who is used to using partially-hydrogenated soybean and corn oils in margarine and shortenings, expressed his constitutional rights to freedom of choice over health concerns. 

He said, "I would have been in favor of us having to post stickers that say 'eating this could be hazardous to your health' and letting the customers decide. Cigarettes are still legal and yet trans fats or shortenings are illegal. Go figure."

American food giants General Mills and ConAgra, who are heavily invested in the soft oils value chain, have sought to persuade the FDA to impose very low caps on partially-hydrogenated oils, rather than a total ban. 

FDA, however, is adamant on prioritising the public's health concerns and say the decision stays to completely outlaw the deadly trans fat by mid-2018.

After the Big Apple ban in 2006, some food companies in New York region had been voluntarily phasing out partially hydrogenated oils.

A 2012 study, funded in part by New York City, found trans-fat consumption had declined by a “substantial” amount in fast food chains once the regulation went into effect.

“Former Mayor Bloomberg is a leader in this public health battle and the measure in New York really showed that this could be done,” said Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Still, trans-fats are found in supermarket foods such as microwave popcorn, frosting, pie crusts and margarine. “This is going to be a huge win for the public health,” O’Hara said.