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SILVER SPRING, Md. — U.S. regulators made a preliminary move Thursday to remove trans fats from food products.
The Food and Drug Administration announced a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of artificial trans fats in processed foods, are not "generally recognized as safe" to eat. The determination was based on scientific evidence and findings by expert panels, and the agency said it would spend the next 60 days collecting additional data and accepting comments - including from food manufacturers on the time needed to reformulate products that contain trans fats - before finalizing its determination. If that happens, partially hydrogenated oils would be considered "food additives" and would be prohibited from use in foods unless authorized by regulation, though the agency would give producers time to reformulate products in order to minimize market disruption.
Trans fats are widely blamed for cardiovascular disease, and many food manufacturers and retailers have already removed them from their products, often advertising them on packaging, but they remain in processed foods like certain desserts, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers.
"While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fats has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern," FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg said. "The FDA's action today is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat."
According to the FDA, thanks to efforts by manufacturers and retailers and public education, trans fat consumption has gone from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012.