The Food and Drug Administration announced June 16 that it has finalized a determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not generally recognized as safe for use in human food.
Food manufacturers will now have until June 18, 2018, to either reformulate their products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs. Following the three-year compliance period, no PHOs may be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA. The FDA notes that many companies have already been working to remove PHOs from processed foods and many may eliminate them ahead of the compliance date.
An FDA press release states that since 2006 manufacturers have been required to include trans fat content information on the “Nutrition Facts” label of foods. Foods may be labeled as having “0” grams trans fat if they contain less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving, including PHOs. The FDA estimates that consumer trans fat consumption decreased about 78 percent between 2003 and 2012 and that the labeling rule and industry reformulation of foods were key factors in informing healthier consumer choices and reducing trans fat in foods. However, a substantial number of processed foods still contain PHOs, including some snack foods, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, cookies, stick margarine, shortening, coffee creamers, pies and ready-to-use frostings, and the current intake of trans fat remains a public health concern.
The FDA notes that trans fat will not be completely gone from foods because it occurs naturally in small amounts in meat and dairy products and is present at very low levels in other edible oils.