Earlier this month, the FDA announced that the food industry will be eliminating all trans fat from the food supply by 2018 – a huge step in the right direction, and a decision that’ll save thousands of lives a year. Still, some of you are probably staring at the nutrition label kind of wondering what it all means. No problem – we gotchu covered.
You: “What is trans fat?”
Trans fat is created in a manufacturing process called “hydrogenation.” Partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are made when you add hydrogen to vegetable oil, which turns liquid into a solid fat at room temperature (think margarine).
These PHOs are the biggest source of artificial trans fat. They also promise a longer shelf life and, conveniently, tastier food. So food companies are super into it. Trans fats are also found naturally in meat and dairy, but at lower levels.
Your heart: “WTF?”
Several studies have linked trans fat to heart disease. That’s because it increases levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – aka the “bad” cholesterol that clogs up your arteries – and leads to a greater risk of heart disease. Which, btw, is the leading cause of death in the U.S (approximately 600,000 a year kind of thing).
FDA: “Yah, no.”
In 2013, the FDA declared PHOs as non-GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) for human consumption. And this was already after requiring companies to include the trans fat content on nutrition labels in 2006.
Earlier this month, they put their foot down once and for all, setting a 2018 deadline for food industries to eliminate trans fat from the American food supply completely. Companies will still be allowed to ask for trans fat exemptions – but they’ll be granted sparingly.
Food Industry: “Oh dear.”
This is a huge bummer for the food industry. As noted above, foods with trans fat don’t spoil as quickly, and the fat adds a certain taste and texture that Americans like. Removing trans fat from the food supply is not only costly, but risks pushing the consumers away as well. Still, the change will most likely save billions in health care and other costs in the long run.
Orville Redenbacher (and co.): “My b.”
It’s a bittersweet goodbye for many of us – artificial trans fats are in most of our favorite foods, including baked goods, store-bought frosting, ice cream, microwave popcorn, french fries, doughnuts, and much, much more. Just keep telling yourself: it’s for the greater good.
The American Heart Association has recommended less than 2 grams of trans fat per day in a 2,000-calorie diet; Jiffy Pop’s butter popcorn has 10.5 grams in just one of its stovetop popping pans. ‘Nuff said.