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FDA Bans Trans-Fat

The FDA Bans Trans-Fat (a century after it entered the market) and the story of Fred Kummerow.

Trans-fat has been a long source of see-saw debate. However, the FDA’s new ban, 104 years after trans-fat was introduced to the public, means that oil produce this way are no longer “generally recognized as safe”. This means that food companies can no longer put them in our food.

“…Trans fats entered the food supply more than a century ago, when a German chemist, Wilhelm Normann, learned that added hydrogen atoms could turn vegetable oil solid. His formulation of crystallized cottonseed oil was introduced in 1911 by Procter & Gamble under the brand name Crisco.

…For years trans fats were in all sorts of products, including forms of margarine that were popularized as alternatives to butter during World War II and as healthier alternatives to saturated fats in the 1960s. This was one case where the medical establishment was completely wrong.”

Well into the 80s and 90s, many scientists and public health advocates believed that partially hydrogenated oils were preferable to the more natural saturated fats. Furthermore, it was cheaper than the natural fats, had extended shelf life and gave food a desirable texture and taste. This gave the food industry a way to mass-manufacture food, as well as produce food that consumers will want to keep buying. 

“…But in the 1990s the true toll of trans fats, which could be found in packaged cakes, peanut butter, pizza, and lots of other foods, started to become clear. On a calorie by calorie basis, trans fats seem to increase heart disease risk more than any other nutrient, and unlike other fats, sugars, or carbohydrates, they have no nutritional benefit.

…What’s really terrifying about this is until the FDA mandated that food labels tell consumers how much trans fat was in their snacks in 2006, there was almost no way for someone who was concerned to avoid them. In 2007, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned restaurants from using trans fats in cooking.”

We owe our thanks to Fred Kummerow, a 100-year-old University of Illinois professor who has warned about the dangers of trans-fat for nearly SIX DECADES. His early research showed people who died of heart attack having high levels of artificial trans-fat in their arteries. Despite Kummerow’s citizen petition in 2009 and other mounting research, the FDA did not take any major initiative towards the issue. Kummerow sued the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services in 2013, and won – three months later, the FDA announced its plans to effectively eliminate trans fats by saying that the substance no longer would be assumed safe for use in human foods. Now, it is official: the FDA bans trans-fat. 

One last thought – on how little we know about what we eat:

“…The big question this raises, obviously, is what else is in our food that is harming us? And the answer is that we don’t know. “We’re continually studying and we’re continually learning,” says Kirk Garratt , director of interventional cardiology research at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It wasn’t an evil plot on the part of some corporate interest. It was just incomplete sceince. We still have incomplete science, and we’ll find out about mistakes we made in 2015.”

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