Doughnut with sprinkles

Processed foods will no longer contain harmful artificial trans fat thanks to a final determination by FDA. Photo courtesy Jenny Kaczorowski, Flickr

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced its final determination that partially hydrogenated oil, commonly known as trans fat, is no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

The action, according to Acting FDA Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD, “is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

APHA and the public health community cheered the announcement.

“The evidence is clear. There is no safe level of trans fat,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, in a statement. “By FDA’s estimation, partially hydrogenated oils cause up to 7,000 deaths each year in the U.S. and should be phased out of the food supply as soon as possible.”

Artificial trans fat, once a staple in our food supply, is still used in many popular processed foods — including frozen pizza, frostings, sprinkles, refrigerated dough and coffee creamers — to give texture, flavor or longer shelf life.

FDA is allowing companies three years to comply to either reformulate products without the oil or petition the FDA to permit specific uses.

The agency also concluded that the economic benefits of eliminating the use of partially hydrogenated oil greatly outweigh the costs of switching to healthier oils. Over 20 years, it is estimated that the benefits would total between $117 billion and $242 billion while the costs would total between $12 billion and $14 billion.

“This major public health victory comes after nearly 25 years of scientific research and advocacy on behalf of the public health community,” said Benjamin.

APHA has long endorsed removal of partially hydrogenated oil from the food supply and submitted comments to FDA in support of this final determination.