A Win for Heart Health: Guiding Stars Applauds FDA’s Move Toward Eliminating Trans Fats

UPDATE: Guiding Stars submitted formal comments to the FDA. Learn more »

In a major win for heart health in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration has taken a significant first step toward eliminating harmful trans fats from foods. The agency has issued a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils—the primary source of trans fat in desserts, frozen pizza, margarine and other processed foods—are no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

Once finalized, the FDA’s determination will classify these synthetic products as additives, requiring FDA approval for their use in foods and making it illegal to sell foods containing trans fats without FDA approval.

We at Guiding Stars are extremely pleased to see the FDA take this bold move in the interest of public health. From the very beginning, the Guiding Stars rating system and algorithm have systematically penalized products that contain partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list, regardless of any trans fat content disclosed on the rated products’ Nutrition Facts Panel.

“We applaud and wholeheartedly agree with the FDA’s position on artificial trans fats, and look forward to the day when these harmful substances will be eliminated completely from the food supply,” said Leslie Fischer, Ph.D., MPH, RD, a Research Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Department of Nutrition and a member of the Guiding Stars’ Scientific Advisory Panel.

The FDA’s actions, in fact, do pave the way for the elimination of artificial trans fats in food, which have been exposed as a major risk factor of heart disease and related deaths in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 5,000 Americans die each year of heart disease and another 15,000 develop heart disease as a direct result of artificial trans fats in the foods they eat.

The American Heart Association, American Medical Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have all publicly supported the FDA’s move, recognizing the danger trans fats pose to Americans’ health. Cities like New York and other municipalities have already banned the use of these ingredients in restaurants, and many restaurants and food producers have proactively taken major steps to voluntarily eliminate trans fat from their products and cooking processes.

While this has helped to reduce average consumption in the U.S. to about 1 gram per day, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has even acknowledged that there is no safe level of consumption, essentially indicating that artificial trans fats should be eradicated from the food supply.

“Until we see trans fats officially eliminated, we encourage consumers to look carefully at the foods they buy, and avoid products containing partially hydrogenated oils which  could pose a risk to their health,” Fischer said.