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Eliminate trans-fats? What does THAT mean?

Did you hear the latest from the FDA??  On November 7, 2013, the FDA announced that trans-fats were no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS).  The 60 day comment period to gain feedback from consumers and industries begins. What does this all mean??

What are trans-fats? These fats are found in partially hydrogenated oils – the ones that were once liquid at room temperature and then transformed to a solid state. Research found that trans-fats indeed raise the bad cholesterol, LDL, which likely contributes to heart disease. Trans-fats have been around since the 1950’s and since then a whole new world of convenience foods was born because the partially hydrogenated oils increased shelf life.

What foods have trans-fats? Think commercially prepared, processed foods: cookies, desserts, crackers, frozen meals and snack foods.  Also, trans-fats can be found in small quantities of animal products.  The FDA is not targeting these naturally occurring animal food sources.

What does GRAS mean? The FDA has a list of additives that appear on the GRAS list – these additives are to be used only as intended by industries and are considered safe for consumption.  The companies do not have to report use of these additives or amounts being used. The November 7th proclamation about trans-fats is taking the stance that research supports they are no longer safe.  The 60 day comment period will map out the elimination of trans-fats AND will make companies accountable for eliminating the use of partially hydrogenated oils.

Haven’t the food companies already decreased trans-fats in foods? Yes, some have.  And, research has shown that consumers are indeed reading the food label and making better food selections.  But, did you know a food label could say, “No trans-fats” when a small amount (less than 0.5 grams per serving) can still be present?  Trans-fat consumption can add up quickly. Think, “Am I really eating just that serving or am I eating more than that portion plus other foods??”

What do I do in the meanwhile? Choose foods that are whole and not processed: fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low fat dairy, whole grains rich in fiber.  Choose foods with little to no saturated fat. Confirm in the ingredient list “partially hydrogenated oil” is not listed.  Aim for at least 2 servings of the Omega 3 rich fish: tuna, salmon, mackerel a week.  And, stay active! Finally, make your voice heard by commenting over the next 60 days about the FDA plans to eliminate trans-fats.

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We have created this blog as a way to communicate key childrens' health and safety issues to parents and other child advocates. It is managed by Dayton Children's department of marketing communications. Comments can be sent to rodneyg@childrensdayton.org.