FDA: Wants to Include Trans Fatty Acids on Food Labels
The FDA is out to attack the "phantom fat" -- trans fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels and increase the risk of premature heart disease -- proposing to include them on food labels, the Washington Post reports. Much of trans fatty acids come from "liquid vegetable oils that have been converted to solids because they stay fresh longer than conventional shortenings" and according to a 1994 Harvard University study increase risk of heart attack even in small amounts. However, many consumers are not aware of trans fats or their potential harm, prompting the FDA to take action. Under the FDA's proposed regulations, trans fat would be combined with saturated fat because both raise the risk of heart disease. An asterisk would lead consumers to the bottom of the label where the exact amount of trans fat would be listed. The FDA is also considering using trans fat in ranking foods as "lean," "extra lean," "reduced saturated fat" or "low saturated fat."
Death By Fat
The proposal is in the midst of a 90-day public comment period that ends mid-February. After the comment period, it will be about two years before the rule takes effect. The FDA has proposed that these changes would save at least $1 billion in annual health care costs by preventing 6,400 cases of heart disease each year and at least 2,100 deaths. Walter Willett, chair of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, said those numbers are a lowball estimate. He said, "Trans fatty acids are responsible for about 30,000 premature deaths per year. The FDA's numbers were based on small reductions in trans fat, but they didn't make the assumption that people would fully avoid them. That's not hard to do if one has the information and it's something that consumers really need to consider if they are trying to make the healthiest choices for their diets. ... It's why the FDA change is so important" (Squires, 1/11).