On June 16, 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are not “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS for use in human food. Food manufacturers will have three years to remove PHOs from their products.
PHOs are the primary source of industrially produced trans fat, and are found in many processed foods, such as baked goods and frozen foods. They grew in popularity as an ingredient since the 1950s because PHOs helped increase shelf-life and flavor stability of processed foods. “Trans fat intake has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease by contributing to the buildup of plaque inside the arteries that may cause a heart attack.” The FDA already requires that the trans fat content be declared on the Nutrition Facts label so that people can make educated decisions. Removing PHOs from foods will have a huge impact on health, and would reduce coronary heart diseases and prevent thousands of heart attacks every year.
Now that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer generally recognized as safe for human consumption, the FDA is providing a three-year compliance period which allows manufacturers to gradually phase out the remaining uses, or seek food additive approval for those uses. Note that these new measures will not eliminate all trans fat from our diets, as trans fat occurs naturally in meat and dairy and at very low levels in other edible oils.
Link between Trans Fats and Asthma, Allergies or Eczema?
Some studies have claimed that there are links between the consumption of trans fats and inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, asthma, rhinoconjunctivitis, food allergies and eczema, particularly in children. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Phase Three determined “an increased risk of severe asthma in adolescents and children was associated with the consumption of fast food ≥3 times per week, as well as an increased risk of severe rhinoconjunctivitis and severe eczema.” The Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) concluded that the” scientific evidence with regards to a possible relationship of TFA intake with cancer, type 2 diabetes or allergies is weak or inconsistent.” Although there may be a high correlation between frequent consumption of foods high in trans fat and inflammatory disorders, causality hasn’t necessarily been proven.