Israel applauds FDA for cracking down on trans fats

A box is filled with trans-fat-free, all-natural doughnuts. AP Photo/Richard Drew
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A U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal to limit the usage of harmful trans fats in everyday food items has validated many years of advocacy for one northeast Queens lawmaker.

U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville) applauded the FDA’s preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, or PHOs, should be classified as unsafe in food. The congressman said the proposal could all but eliminate harmful trans fats from the country’s food supply — a battle he has been fighting himself on Capitol Hill.

“I am extremely pleased to hear that the FDA is taking a crucial step toward eliminating artificial trans fats in our food supply, which is sure to lead to a drastic reduction in heart disease in the U.S.,” Israel said. “For many years now, I’ve been advocating for a more transparent labeling system, so consumers understand the amount of trans fats they are ingesting and have the information they need to make healthy choices.”

Under the new FDA proposal, food companies that choose to use PHOs to manufacture trans fats would have to scientifically prove the products are safe to eat, which Israel said is virtually impossible. The FDA put the decision up for public comment over the next two months before making a final decision.

“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg. “The FDA’s action is an important step toward protecting more Americans from the potential dangers of trans fat.”

Hamburg said reducing the amount of trans fat in the food supply had the potential to prevent nearly 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

Israel introduced legislation of his own several times over recent years, called the Trans Fat Truth in Labeling Act, which set out to require food manufactures to accurately list trans fat content in their products. He said his bill was part of a greater national trend to eat healthier.

“The FDA’s announcement only underscores the goal of my bill to reduce heart disease through better nutrition,” Israel said.

FDA Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor said that while most food manufacturing companies have taken it upon themselves to reduce the trans fat levels in their products, there still remained a significant chunk that contain PHOs. The end result, Taylor said, left consumers vulnerable to consuming more trans fats than they may be aware of due to inaccurate labeling, which could lead to greater health risks from products like desserts, frozen pizza and coffee creamers.

The FDA public comment on the matter was submitted through a Federal Register Notice and can be accessed through the agency’s website or at federalregister.gov.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 12:00 am, November 17, 2013
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