Score one for the cardiovascular system. With the Food and Drug Administration’s plan to ban trans fats, arteries will be less clogged and hearts will beat longer. It’s a win not only for the health of the nation but for that increasingly scarce commodity, common sense.
Trans fats are evil concoctions whose main purpose is to provide texture and stability to foods, especially baked goods, allowing them to stay on the shelves longer than nature prefers. They aren’t natural products, but are artificially created fats that have been conclusively linked to clogged arteries and, with them, heart attacks.
Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, was declarative in his support for the FDA’s action. “Getting rid of artificial trans fats is one of the most important life-saving measures the FDA could take,” he said.
Check your food label. If there are trans fats, they are reported there. If you see partially hydrogenated oil listed in the ingredients, those are trans fats. You are holding a packaged heart attack.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the public charge against these poisons, pushing seven years ago to ban them in the city’s restaurants. Then, the idea seemed aggressive, but with the passage of time – and more than a few lives – he has been shown to have taken the right stand. Trans fats shouldn’t be tolerated in our food supply any more than motor oil.
The move has been swift. As consumers became both more educated and more health conscious, the food industry scrambled over the past decade to remove trans fats from its products. Also spurring the industry was the FDA’s 2006 requirement that nutritional labels break out trans fat content.
It has been a success. Around New York, many restaurants have already met the challenge of eliminating trans fats. While baked goods and especially doughnuts were challenging, there is no groundswell of complaints. There are no keep-our-trans-fats rallies. The job got done, and it continues.
The FDA has launched a 60-day comment period after which, unless matters change, trans fats will no longer be categorized as “generally recognized as safe.” At that point, to legally sell food with trans fats in them, makers would have to prove they are safe. That is generally recognized as impossible, given the overwhelming volume of science that buttresses the FDA’s action.
Some people will protest that the government has no right regulating what we eat. Indeed, a recent national survey by Pew Research Center found that 52 percent of people opposed banning trans fats from restaurant meals, with 44 percent supporting.
That’s insupportable. The role of the FDA is to ensure that what Americans put into their mouths is safe, whether it is food or drugs. When a substance is documented to cause illness and death, it is unsafe to consume. This was the right decision.