The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has moved to propose a ban on using partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in processed foods. The substances, known for their contribution to increasing bad cholesterol and raising the risk of heart attack, are commonly used by the food processing industry in products such as margarine, coffee creamers, frozen pizza, crackers and microwave popcorn, among others.
Over the past decade, consumers have become more health-conscious and have been avoiding products that contain trans fats, especially after 2006, when companies were required to present information about trans fats used in products on their labels. However, these substances are unlikely to stop being used altogether, which has prompted the FDA to take action and propose that PHOs should be classified as food additives, thus requiring premarket approval by the regulator. If the proposal is finalized, foods containing unapproved PHOs will be considered adulterated and illegal.
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According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reduced consumption of trans fats can prevent about 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths every year, the FDA stated on its website.
Since one of the essential duties of the federal agency is to ensure that the food that reaches U.S. consumers is safe, the FDA has issued a Federal Register notice, announcing that PHOs will not be "generally recognized as safe." The FDA is welcoming written comments and scientific data on the matter between now and Jan. 7, 2014.