by Eric F. Greenberg
FDA wants trans fats out of food, but what else?
When FDA announced its tentative determination last November that partially hydrogenated oils were not generally recognized as safe, they may have announced a new, more aggressive era in the regulation of food ingredient and food contact materials.
This is an exceedingly rare event. FDA says its previous actions to revoke generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status go back about 40 years, for cyclamates in 1969, and saccharin and brominated vegetable oil in the early 1970s.
Partially hydrogenated oils, including partially hydrogenated soybean oil and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, are “the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids, or trans fats,” says FDA, and “new scientific evidence” and the findings of various experts lead FDA to conclude that the oils are not GRAS “for any use in food.” Trans fatty acids or trans fats show up in cookies, other baked goods, shortenings, frostings, stick margarines, and other products. FDA explains that “Although all refined edible oils contain some trans fat as an unintentional byproduct of their manufacturing process, trans fats are an integral component of [partially hydrogenated oils] and are purposely produced in these oils to affect the properties of the oil and the characteristics of the food to which they are added.”