Special edition: Is banning partially hydrogenated oils the best way to crack down on trans fats?

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Special edition: Is banning partially hydrogenated oils the best way to crack down on trans fats?

Related tags Partially hydrogenated oils Trans fat

On the face of it, the FDA’s proposal to revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) - the source of most of the ‘artificial’ trans fats in the US food supply - seems like a no-brainer. After all, even if the jury is apparently still out on saturated fats, few experts dispute that trans fats are bad news. 

But as always, the devil is in the detail.

What about PHOs used in processing aids, or ingredients that contribute negligible amounts of trans fat to the diet? And are there more practical alternatives to a blanket ban on PHOs that would help the FDA achieve its objective (cracking down on trans-fats) without causing formulation nightmares?

From a legal perspective, meanwhile, has the agency presented compelling evidence that further reductions of trans-fat below current intakes will make such a material difference to the risk of coronary heart disease that regulatory action is justified?  

Finally, if the FDA does go ahead and ban PHOs from the US food supply, how long should industry be given to phase them out?

Is there a safe level of trans fat?

A brief glance through the comments submitted to the docket on this issue reveals opinions are sharply divided.

The American Heart Association and the American Medical Association, for example, argue that there is no ‘safe’ level of trans fat and that a phase out should take months, not years.

Most food industry associations, however, argue that there are other ways to tackle trans fats instead of issuing a blanket ban on PHOs, and that if the FDA concludes a ban is the best option, firms need several years to adjust.

Fats and oils suppliers, meanwhile, are also divided over the move, with the soybean industry urging caution, at least until new high-oleic soybean oils are more widely available; while palm oil suppliers say alternatives to PHOs are already widely available, and that palm oil has been unfairly demonized due to its saturated fat content.

What do key stakeholders think?

DuPont soy close up

In this special, we have pulled together views from different stakeholders to demonstrate what a hornet's nest the FDA's Nov 7 announcement has stirred up.


Nestlé​, the Grocery Manufacturers Association​, General Mills​ & others: Here are two practical alternatives to a blanket ban on PHOs

The American Soybean Association​… and a cardiologist​: Soybean industry has ‘grave concerns’, cardiologist says we should act now

The American Bakers Association​: FDA crackdown is unlawful, unnecessary and will have unintended consequences'

Qualisoy​: Removing GRAS status from PHOs is extreme and other options should be explored

Gum​ makers: Banning PHOs will cause massive headaches for chewing gum makers

Crisco oils maker J M Smucker: ​ FDA crackdown on trans fats will not impact our business

Palm oil giant Loders Croklaan​: How long does the industry really need to eradicate partially hydrogenated oils from the US food supply?

National Association of Margarine Manufacturers​ (NAMM): Butter consumption is at a 40-year high, but margarine is the healthier option

The Private Label Manufacturers Association​ (PLMA), click HERE​. 

The International Dairy Foods Association​, click HERE​. 

The National Restaurant Association​, click HERE​. 

Red velvet cake
The American Bakers Association thinks there are other approaches that would achieve the FDA's goals without resorting to a blanket ban on PHOs


The American Medical Association,​ click HERE​.

The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics​ (AND), click HERE​. 

Dr Penny Kris-Etherton, nutrition researcher​: Partially hydrogenated oils should be phased out in months, not years

The American Heart Association​: The industry doesn’t need years to phase out artificial trans fats

The Center for Science in the Public Interest​ (CSPI), click HERE​. 

The American Heart Association thinks food manufacturers should be given months, not years, to phase out PHOs from the food supply

Click HERE ​to read the FDA’s original proposal​ to revoke the GRAS status of PHOs - which shocked the trade when it was announced last November, plus all the comments in the docket (which has now closed).

Read more about PHOs and 0g trans fat claims​: How many products making ‘0g trans-fat’ claims still contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (PHOs)?

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