The Downfall of Trans Fats

November 14, 2013

WestlawNextThe Food and Drug Administration recently published a notice in the Federal Register proposing to dramatically restrict the use of trans-fats or “partially hydrogenated oils” (PHOs) from foods. See 78 FR 67169-01. The determination indicates that PHOs are not “generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for any use in food based on current scientific evidence…” The proposed restriction would prevent the use and sale of PHOs without obtaining approval from the FDA.

The Federal Register announcement provides background and detail about PHOs – their creation, background, use, labeling, safety, and past efforts in regards to reduce their use. The consumption of PHOs has been shown to increase cholesterol, and increases the risk of coronary heart disease, and diabetes, as well as lead to impaired growth in fetuses and breastfed infants.

Many companies have already removed trans-fats from their products in response to initial findings about their negative health effects.  In 1999, he FDA proposed a labeling rule (64 FR 62746) in response to those findings, and then a final rule in 2003 requiring nutrition labels to include reference to trans-fats. 21 CFR 101.9(c)(2)(ii). New York City banned restaurants from using trans-fats, and numerous other restaurants and chains have also terminated their use. See New York City Health Code 81.08.

According to the USDA, foods that may currently still contain trans-fats include crackers, cookies, refrigerated dough, stick margarine, pre-mixed products (cake, pancake, chocolate drink), fried foods, and some snack foods such as chips, candy or microwave/packaged popcorn.

Research References

For an excellent review of the law on this topic including procedures for proving GRAS see Chapter 11 of Food and Drug Administration, Third Edition by James T. O’Reilly.

You can locate the New York City Health Code rule banning trans fats by running the following WestSearch query in New York City Municipal Materials:


New York City, N.Y., Rules, Tit. 24, Health Code, § 81.08 (Foods containing artificial trans fat) should appear within the first few results. Also included in the initial results is the penalty schedule for violations – New York City, N.Y., Rules, Tit. 48, § 3-107.