New 2015 regulations on Trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils

Updated guidelines no longer recognize Trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils as safe.

There are major changes coming to the food industry pertaining to Trans-fats and partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).

What are Trans-fats and PHOs?

Industrially produced Trans-fat, and/or PHOs are found in many popular processed foods, like baked goods and frozen foods. Many Americans rely on these food items to feed their families. PHOs have been widely used as ingredients since the 1950’s to increase the shelf-life and flavor stability of processed foods.

Recent changes in federal regulations include:

  • 2013: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary determination that PHOs, were no longer "generally recognized as safe," commonly referred to “GRAS” for short. As of June 2015, the FDA is working to finalize action in determining that PHOs are not GRAS for any use in human food.
  • June 2015: FDA gave food manufacturers three years to remove the partially hydrogenated oils or PHOs from their products. The companies can petition the FDA for a special permit to use either, but no PHOs can be added to human food unless otherwise approved by the FDA.

What should you do? Check your pantry! Common household Trans-fats and PHOs include:

  • Baked goods. Most cakes, cookies, pie crusts and crackers contain shortening, which is usually made from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Ready-made frosting is another source of Trans-fat.
  • Snacks. Potato, corn and tortilla chips often contain Trans-fat. While popcorn can be a healthy snack, many types of packaged or microwave popcorn use trans-fat to help cook or flavor the popcorn.
  • Fried food. Foods that require deep frying — French fries, doughnuts and fried chicken — can contain Trans-fat from the oil used in the cooking process.
  • Refrigerator dough. Products such as canned biscuits, cinnamon rolls and frozen pizza crusts often contain Trans-fat.
  • Creamer and margarine. Non-dairy coffee creamer and stick margarine may contain PHOs.

Tips to consider at the grocery store for making healthy choices:

  • Read labels – Trans-fat information is located under the “Total Fat” section on food labels.
  • Watch for and avoid products with the words “Partially Hydrogenated Oil,” that means there are Trans-fats in the product.
  • Even if the food label says “0” Trans-fats, it could still contain 0.5 grams.
  • Start your grocery store routine by first filling your grocery cart with veggies, fruits and whole foods.

For more information on Trans-fats, healthy eating and chronic disease visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

Photo source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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