Trans Fat Ban Coming Soon?

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Andrea Fabry

Andrea Fabry › Andrea is a former journalist, a radio host, and the mother of nine children. She is ...

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The term ‘trans fat’ may soon be disappearing from food labels. The Food and Drug Administration has announced a possible ban on partially hydrogenated oils, giving the public a 60-day comment period before issuing a final decision.

According to FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.:

“The FDA’s action is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat. Further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year–a critical step in the protection of Americans’ health.”

The trans fat journey began in 1902 when German chemist Wilhelm Normann showed that liquid oils could be transformed into something solid using the process of hydrogenation.

Procter and Gamble jumped on the patent, releasing the first hydrogenated shortening, Crisco, (composed of partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil), in 1911. P & G successfully marketed Crisco by giving away free cookbooks and emphasizing the fluffiness of the product when used in baking.

In the 1940s, Russian scientist Catherine Kousmine raised questions about the connection between trans fat and the development of cancer.

In the 1980s, research suggested a high correlation between trans fat and the onset of coronary disease.

In 1993, consumer groups pleaded with fast food chains to eliminate the use of partially hydrogenated oils.

In 2003, the FDA required that trans fat be listed on the Nutrition Facts label, giving food manufacturers three years to comply.

This latest move demonstrates that consumers must be mindful of the potential pitfalls of processed foods.

In July 2008, New York City initiated a ban on trans fat in all city restaurants, while California became the first state to pass legislation to place a ban on trans fats.

Here we are in 2013 with the FDA telling us these partially hydrogenated oils may not be GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe).

From my perspective, this latest move demonstrates that consumers must be mindful of the potential pitfalls of processed foods without waiting for the actions of regulatory agencies like the FDA.

(It also tells me that raising questions about genetically modified foods is wise and warranted.)

Where does this leave the consumer when it comes to fats in general? Are all fats bad? Does this mean that low-fat is better than high-fat foods?

According to Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig, authors of Eat Fat, Lose Fat, not all fat is created equal. Fallon and Enig distinguish between fats made in a factory and those occurring naturally. Fallon, the president of the Weston Price Foundation, and Enig, a nutritionist and one of the foremost researchers on trans fats, emphasize that a desire for fat is a healthy instinct.

“Creamy sauces, buttered vegetables, and ice cream taste good for a reason. It’s not that your body is trying to torment you by making unhealthy foods seem delectable. Instead, your body is using your taste buds to signal what you need. That’s why most of us enjoy rich foods, like succulent lamb chops, berries with heavy cream, and crispy turkey skin. But because we believe fats are bad, we are afraid to listen to our bodies.

 In fact, rich, delicious foods are nature’s gift to us, in contrast to processed foods, the creations of the food industry.”

While the FDA contemplates its next step in the elimination of trans fats, why not consider a return to fresh, organic, real foods, including an extra dose of coconut oil?

Do you think a ban on trans fats is a good idea?

Photo credit: Andrea Fabry