“There are scant or trace amounts of this (trans fats) that may occur naturally, but for the most part this is a totally synthetic fat that provides no nutritional value and is truly armful to the vasculature,” said Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of the division of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
Hamburg said the FDA made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of trans fats in processed foods, are “not generally recognized as being safe to use in foods.” She said if the agency makes a final determination partially hydrogenated oils are not safe, they would be considered a “food additive,” requiring food manufacturers to seek authorization before they could be used.
That means food companies would have to demonstrate “scientifically that there's a reasonable certainty of no harm from the use of the ingredient,” said Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “In light of the findings we're putting out today, we have solid evidence that there are public health concerns associated with the use of the ingredient.”
Exactly when the FDA plans to make a final determination is yet to be known. Hamburg said the agency would begin taking public comments for the next 60 days in the hope of getting feedback from food manufacturers in order to gauge how much time they would need in order to make the transition.
Trans fats are made when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil in order to preserve food longer. Over the past decade, trans fats have been recognized to increase the risk of heart disease by raising the level of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, while lowering the body's levels of high-density lipoprotein, which are considered good cholesterol.