Many food manufacturers and restaurant chains have been reformulating products to significantly reduce or eliminate partially hydrogenated oils, which contain dangerous artery-clogging trans fat. Concerns that companies searching for alternatives would turn to unhealthy — but not quite as harmful — saturated fat, say from butter or palm oil, appear to be unfounded.
That encouraging dietary news is contained in a letter published in the May 27 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, reporting on the results of a survey conducted by Dariush Mozaffarian of Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Public Health, and Michael Jacobson and Julie Greenstein of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The survey looked at 83 packaged and restaurant foods reformulated to largely eliminate trans fat. Its key finding: after reformulation, the average content of saturated fat increased slightly in supermarket foods and decreased in restaurant foods, but any increases were more than outweighed by a big drop in the more dangerous trans fats. The content of both fats combined was reduced in 90 percent of the supermarket products and 96 percent of the restaurant products.
The Food and Drug Administration helped bring about this progress four years ago, when it began requiring food companies to disclose trans fat amounts on food labels. The agency can do more to protect the public.
Current federal dietary guidelines advise Americans to consume partially hydrogenated oils at a level “as low as possible.” While some companies have eschewed their use, others have not. The F.D.A. should declare that it no longer considers partially hydrogenated oil to be “generally recognized as safe” and give companies a limited time to substitute healthier oils.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Below is an editorial from yesterday’s New York Times. It highlights how the government can force big food companies to reformulate their products, making us healthier in the process. Should there be more of these interventions?