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Artificial trans fats — commonly found in the processed foods lining grocery store shelves — will soon be ingredients of the past based on a new decision by the FDA.

On June 23, the FDA ruled that artificial trans fats are not “generally recognized as safe” (“GRAS”) for human consumption. Manufacturers will have three years to phase them out of their products. The ruling does not affect naturally occurring trans fats like those found in dairy foods and meat.

Artificial trans fats were introduced into the food supply in great quantity by the soy industry in the 1950s. This is when partially hydrogenated fats were developed to imitate naturally saturated fats and to expedite the production of processed foods.

To create the solid substance, manufacturers typically take vegetable fats and bombard them with hydrogen, turning them into the solids used in commercial baked goods or to make shortening from vegetable oil.

Research has linked a diet high in consumption of artificial trans fats to higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood lipid levels, and even to higher levels of aggression.

Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and long-time advocate for the removal of trans fats from foods, called the ruling a “victory for public health.”

Walter Willet, MD, MPH, PhD, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and chair of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, added that the ruling “was a long time coming, but is still very welcome because it means that consumers will no longer need to be concerned that this toxic substance may be hiding in their foods.”

For our prior coverage on this story, readFDA Moves to Phase Out Trans Fat in Food.


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