FDA vs. Trans fat
Products with heart vascular-clogging trans fat have been slowly disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade. In November, the Food and Drug Administration announced they are closing the final chapter on trans-fat content.
Since the 1990’s, several scientific studies and health advocacy groups have been calling for the restaurant industry to stop using partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of trans fat and damaging ingredients for heart health. In 2006, FDA passed trans-fat labeling laws for food manufacturers. Last month, the FDA issued a Federal Register notice announcing their tentative determination that PHOs are no longer GRAS (generally recognized as safe) in food. This would mean that, if finalized, food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell PHOs, without prior FDA approval for use as a food additive. However, before the decision is final, the FDA is encouraging food industry experts and others for public comment in the next 60 days to determine how long it would take food manufacturers to reformulate and remove all trans fats from products.
What are trans fats and why do we care?
Statements concerning trans-fat are seen everywhere, especially on the front of packaged food labels: “No trans fat!” or “0 grams trans fat!”, but what does it mean? Public awareness of this dangerous ingredient and trans fat content in the country’s diet has declined dramatically in the last decade, but they remain an area of significant public health concern.
Trans fat: an unsaturated fatty acid that occurs as a result of the hydrogenation process, having a trans arrangement of carbon atoms adjacent to its double bonds.
The hydrogenation process adds hydrogen bonds to liquid fat and as a result, creates a solid fat. This process makes the fat more stable, so it extends the shelf life of the product and improves product texture.
It is heavily used in fried and baked goods and margarine. Crisco, originally marketed in the beginning of the 20th century was a hallmark R&D invention, extending the shelf life of non-refrigerated products.
Common foods that contain trans fats:
- Microwave popcorn
- Frozen pizzas
- Other baked goods (40% of trans fat in diets come from these)
- Fried foods
- Many other processed foods
Trans fats act like saturated fats inside of the body; they both increase LDL (low density lipoprotein or “bad”) cholesterol levels. This leads to coronary disease and increase heart attack risks. More recent studies suggest trans fats can be linked to other health problems, such as inflammation and diabetes. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, removing processed trans fats in the diet can prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks, and 7,000 deaths from heart disease, each year.
Much of the restaurant industry and food manufacturers have already removed trans fats from their food items after the 2006 labeling law. Since trans fats are stable at high temperatures, products that may need a bit more time in reformulation include products like pizza and some bakery products. As the use of trans fats slowly phase out and reformulated products pop up, this transition will change how we cook and how manufacturers develop new products. Particular types of fat play a determining factor in food texture, flavor, appearance, nutrition, melting point, heat transfer and a variety of other essential food characteristics.
The Food and Drug Administration proposed measures In November, which would all but eliminate artery-clogging, artificial trans fats from the food supply. Denmark was the first country to virtually eliminate trans fat from foods in 2003.
The Food and Drug Administration will move quickly to determine a timeline of mandating that manufacturers eliminate all trans fat. Since most companies have had nearly a decade to figure out what to do, the agency may make a ruling within to include a deadline of mid-2014.
ACP’s Xpress ™ ovens, MXP and Jetwave ™, are helping in the battle against trans fat by minimizing it’s use by cooking bake able products which are normally fried (ex: fries, eggrolls, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, etc.). Though no trans fat fry oil or fats are used, the ovens’ high intensity heat combined with convected air produce crispy and crunchy food products, with a “just-fried” taste.
“A History of Trans Fat.” Heart.org. American Heart Association, 5 Aug. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.
“FDA Targets Trans Fat in Processed Foods.” FDA.gov. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 4 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2013.
Kotz, Deborah. “FDA Moves to Ban Trans Fat as Threat to Health.” BostonGlobe.com. The Boston Globe,
8 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2013.
Neporent, Liz. “5 Foods That Could Become Illegal With FDA Move to Ban Trans Fats.”ABCNews.com.
ABC News Network, 07 Nov. 2013. Web. 14 Dec. 2013.