Eliminating trans fats

Consumers are searching for healthier options that fit their lifestyle.

More than 30,000 healthier product choices have been made available to consumers between 2002 and 2013, according to the 2014 Health & Wellness Survey released by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).  The new choices represent an additional 10,000 in just the last four years.

“Consumers want to eat better and they want to do so in a way that fits their lifestyles,” says GMA president and CEO Pamela Bailey.

The 2014 GMA Health & Wellness Survey data was collected and analyzed by Georgetown Economic Services. Sixty-nine companies, representing more than half of US food and beverage sales, have shared data for the survey since 2002.

Food and beverage companies reported that they collectively have done the following:

  • Eliminated or reduced trans fat in more than 11,000 product choices.
  • Eliminated or reduced saturated fat in more than 8,000 product choices.

    • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in the processed food supply, are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS. If FDA makes a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS, a company could not use PHOs in food without approval from the FDA, although it may take some time for the change to be fully implemented.

      Analysis by the Centers for Disease Control demonstrates that industrial trans fat is still common in US packaged foods, particularly in some food categories, including bakery. These findings, which are consistent with FDA research findings, provide evidence of the prevalence of industrial trans fat and show that most products that contain PHOs are labeled as containing 0 g of trans fat (84%).

      According to CDC reports, this labeling is cause for concern because consumers, seeing the 0 g trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label, are probably unaware that they are consuming trans fat. Comparable PHO-free products were available in every food category assessed and make up 50% or more of products in all categories with PHOs.

      Eliminating trans fat from US foods is possible, but removal has not been achieved through labeling requirements for packaged food: almost 1 in 10 products CDC examined contained PHOs.

      Although restricting the use of PHOs in packaged food would benefit consumers preparing foods at home, an FDA ruling would also help ensure that restaurant customers are protected from unknowingly consuming industrial trans fat, according to CDC. Some local jurisdictions have restricted the use of PHOs in food service establishments, but most Americans live in areas where no such regulation exists.