Washington, DC— Following much research and debate on the subject over the last few years, the FDA has finalized that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), following a notice of tentative determination on the issue in December 2013. PHOs are the primary source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, largely chosen for imparting texture, increasing shelf life, and flavor enhancement.

In an official statement, the FDA said that this “This action responds, in part, to citizen petitions we received, and we base our determination on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat.” Scientific research has suggested that trans fats consumption can contribute to heart disease over time. The statement also clarified that the usage of PHOs as a raw material to synthesize other ingredients or in animal feed were not affected by the order.

While this is certainly the largest order regarding trans fats, initiatives have been made to phase them out at both the state and business level for some time now. New York and California have already passed trans fat bans, and massive companies like Dunkin Donuts have drastically reduced the amount of trans fats used in the face of new scientific research and consumer concern. In fact, the FDA has previously reported that consumer trans fat consumption decreased an estimated 78% between 2003 and 2012, largely due to companies seeking out other oils to prepare foods with.

Several food and health industry associations have offered commentary on the landmark decision. Steven J. Stack, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, called the move to eliminate trans fats an “important component in a multipronged strategy needed to help improve public health.” He also pointed out the “ample scientific research” linking trans fat consumption to dangerous health effects, such as heart attack and stroke. Food manufacturers will have a three-year period to comply with the order and replace any PHOs they are using.

Posted on 6/16/2015