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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Thursday that “while consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” and more needs to be done to help protect Americans from their possible dangers.

“Further reduction in the amount of trans fat in the American diet could prevent an additional 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year – a critical step in the protection of Americans’ health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.

According to a preliminary determination by the FDA, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food.

Though many food manufacturers and retailers have voluntarily decreased trans fat levels in products they sell, said the FDA, trans fat can still be found in many other products that can be made without it.

If its preliminary determination is finalized, following a 60-day comment period and review, said the FDA, then “PHOs would be considered ‘food additives’ and could not be used in food unless authorized by regulation.”

It would not affect trans fat that naturally occurs in small amounts in certain dairy and meat products, said the FDA.

New York City has already taken its own steps to help eliminate trans fats from its residents’ diets. Mayor Michael Bloomberg applauded the FDA announcement in a statement Thursday.

“Seven years ago we became the first city in the nation to prohibit restaurants from using trans fats. Since then, at least 15 states and localities have followed suit and banned trans fats – and more than ten fast food chains have eliminated trans fats entirely. Today, we’re greatly encouraged that the FDA proposed measures that would virtually eliminate the artery-clogging and unnecessary ingredient from our nation’s food supply,” he said.

 

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