In 2015, the FDA determined that trans fats are not generally recognized as safe for use in food and set June 2018 as the deadline for food manufacturers to remove them from their products, a process that was completed in 2019. The FDA also prohibited the use of partially hydrogenated oils, which are the primary source of artificial trans fats in food.
Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are a type of unsaturated fat that is commonly used in processed foods. They were first developed in the early 20th century as a replacement for butter and other saturated fats. Trans fats were widely used in a variety of foods, including baked goods, fried foods, and snack foods because they have a long shelf life, are less likely to spoil, and add a desirable texture and taste to food.
In the early 1990s, scientific studies began to link the consumption of trans fats to an increased risk of heart disease. Trans fats raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often called “bad” cholesterol, and decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, which is often called “good” cholesterol. This increases the risk of heart disease.
As a result of these findings, many food manufacturers began to reduce the amount of trans fats in their products. However, trans fats were still widely used in many foods. In the early 2000s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required that trans fats be listed on the nutrition facts label of packaged foods, so consumers could see how much trans fat a product contained.
The ban on trans fats is considered a significant public health achievement, as it aims to reduce the incidence of heart disease and associated deaths. It’s important to note that some small amount of trans fats can still be found in some foods, as the FDA allows a small amount of trans fats that occur naturally in some meat and dairy products.