The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced that it will take on the thorny subject of trans fats in food, a decades-old controversy that has set public health advocates against the food industry. The FDA has all but declared that partially hydrogenated oils can no longer be “generally recognized as safe.”
This turn of events is a decades-old dream of Fred Kummerow, 99, a professor of comparative biosciences at Illinois. Kummerow was the sole author of a petition to the FDA in 2009 to ban trans fats, a petition the agency had not responded to in any substantive way until this month. His petition outlined the many ways that artificial trans fats are harmful to health, relying on data from decades of research from his lab and others to bolster his case that people should not be eating anything with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils as an ingredient.
This summer Kummerow filed a lawsuit against the FDA for its lack of response to his petition. Now the agency has at last addressed the dangers of trans fats in food. It is proposing to ban artificial trans fats from the food supply unless they are proven safe.
“This is a victory!” Kummerow said. “When is it going to start?”
On Nov. 7, the FDA opened a 60-day comment period on their “preliminary determination” that partially hydrogenated oils were not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. This will allow the agency to hear from those in industry “on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat should this determination be finalized,” the FDA said in a report on the matter.