The impact and consequences of banning trans fatty acids

November 19, 2013

On Nov. 7, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. In a new ePerspective post, Eric Decker, Professor and Dept. Head, Dept. of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts, explains that this proposed rule is not without consequences to many individuals so it is critical that this decision is made carefully. Firstly, Decker questions the scientific data that the FDA is using to back up this proposed rule.

Secondly, he questions what will be used in place of trans fatty acids if they are taken off the GRAS list. Certain foods require solid fats for function (e.g., baked goods) so partially hydrogenated oil will have to be replaced with another solid fat such as palm oil. However, the health consequences of replacing partially hydrogenated oil with tropical oils in diets that already have low levels of trans fatty acids is unknown. Additionally, other potential solid fats could be used but they are more expensive and would increase food costs.

Decker also raises some questions for consideration and discussion. For example, some partial hydrogenation technologies, such as electrochemical hydrogenation, can produce low levels of trans fatty acids. Could these products be used in foods if the proposed rule is passed? If so, what criteria would be used to determine if they are GRAS? Read Decker’s blog post for his expert opinion on the FDA’s proposed rule and then comment with your thoughts.

Eric Decker’s ePerspective post