FDA Proposes Elimination of Trans Fats from Food Products

The Food and Drug Administration has taken the first steps toward eliminating artificial trans fats from food products. The FDA says the change could prevent 20-thousand heart attacks and seven-thousand deaths caused by heart disease each year. The FDA has required food manufacturers to print details about trans fats on nutrition labels since 2006. Intake among Americans - according to the agency - has declined from 4.6-grams per day in 2003 to one gram per day last year. But FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says despite the decline in the consumption of trans fat - current intake remains a significant public health concern. Under the FDA proposal - trans fats would no longer be among ingredients in the largely unregulated category known as "generally recognized as safe." Michael Taylor - FDA's top food safety official - says those wanting to use trans fats in foods would have to petition the FDA and meet rigorous safety standards showing the would cause no harm to public health.

Products containing trans fats have already been disappearing from grocery stores and restaurant menus in recent years. New York City and Philadelphia previously imposed bans on artificial trans fats in restaurants. Food companies have responded to consumer demand and pressure from regulators by removing trans fats from a variety of products. According to the Grocery Manufacturers Association - food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amounts of trans fats in their products by over 73-percent since 2005. Even Dunkin Donuts, McDonald's and Taco Bell have been eliminating trans fats. Wal-Mart gave its food suppliers until 2015 to phase out artificial trans fats. FDA's Taylor says all of these moves have demonstrated that it's feasible to do what the FDA is asking - though government officials acknowledge it will likely take years to entirely phase out trans fats.

The FDA will accept public comments on its proposal for 60 days.

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