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Legislatively Speaking
Legislatively Speaking: Where do we draw the line?

By Alma Graham, CT State Grange Legislative Director

  DECEMBER 6, 2013 --

In early November the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule which would eliminate artificial trans fats from our foods.  The FDA declared that partially hydrogenated oils, which is the source of artificial trans fats, are no longer generally recognized as safe.  This is a follow up as a result of the Food Safety bill that was passed in 2013.  The FDA proposal is now under a 60 day comment period but it is expected to be adopted.

Artificial trans fats are vegetable oils that have been mixed with hydrogen to harden it and to increase shelf life.  Partially hydrogenated oil is cheaper to use than saturated fats and for many years was thought to be healthier.  Criso was one of the first in the market but they have already removed artificial trans fats from their product.  Trans fats also occur naturally in foods such as beef and lamb along with some dairy products.  Surprising lean pork is not listed as one of the items containing trans fat.

For years the FDA has required the labeling of products with trans fats.  Studies had shown that artificial trans fats increase levels of bad cholesterol and reduce good cholesterol.  The food industry has already been removing artificial trans fats from their products.  Restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Pizza Hut have already removed artificial trans fats from their foods and Americans are eating less trans fats than in previous years.  There are still some foods with artificial trans fats lurking in the industry. Check your package labels.

The elimination of artificial trans fats would affect many of our foods such as fried, battered foods, frozen desserts, ready to use frostings, pie crusts, cookies, margarine, and coffee creamers to name a few.  Companies would be forced to switch to healthier alternatives in their products.  Companies will need to respond quickly to the FDA on this ruling.  Some cities such as New York had already banned the use of artificial trans fats in restaurants.  The Connecticut legislature considered a bill in 2007 to ban artificial trans fats in foods.  The bill died in the legislature.  Stamford has already banned artificial trans fats and Hartford considered doing the same in 2011. 

Of course this brings up the question of should it be the government’s responsibility to prohibit trans fats in our restaurants and foods.  According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of those questioned opposed rules prohibiting artificial trans fats.  There are some consumer groups that accuse the FDA of meddling with the food supply.  Where do we draw the line between healthy and unsafe?  I personally agree with this ban.


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