Today the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a notice, due to publish in tomorrow’s Federal Register, tentatively determining that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food. If this determination is finalized, PHOs would effectively be banned from use in foods unless they are first approved by the FDA as “food additives,” which would likely be difficult. This would have a major impact on the food industry. In particular, products such as donuts, cookies, margarine, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, baked goods, frostings, and many other foods would need to be reformulated.
The FDA’s concern focuses on trans fats, which are deliberately produced in the manufacturing process for PHOs to help increase the melting point, shelf life, and flavor stability of the oil. Although trans fats exist elsewhere in the diet to some extent, PHOs are the major source. According to the FDA, trans fats may have adverse effects on blood cholesterol parameters that affect the risk of coronary heart disease, and may have other health implications that, as the FDA acknowledges, are unconfirmed. This tentative determination that PHOs are not GRAS follows a 2003 rule requiring labeling of trans fat content in nutrition labeling, as well as various state and local initiatives that have restricted the use of PHOs.
Originally published in Gourmet News on November 7, 2013.
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