Sun, Nov 10, 2013 - Page 3 News List

FDA responds to US proposal

GENERALLY UNSAFE:The US FDA said consumption of trans fats has diminished there, but the risk to public health remains. Taiwan’s FDA is reviewing its own rules

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday said it plans to follow the US FDA’s recent proposal to “monitor and limit the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in stages to reduce the trans fats in processed foods.”

The US FDA announced on Thursday “its preliminary determination that PHOs, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in food,” according to its news release. The preliminary determination is now open for comments for 60 days.

The press release published by the US FDA also cited its commissioner as saying that although consumption of the “potentially harmful” artificial trans fats have declined in the US over the past two decades, “current intake remains a significant public health concern.”

The US FDA also pointed out that the intake of trans fats raises low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease.

The local FDA said yesterday that it has been soliciting expert comments since 2010 and issued an advance notice about food labeling earlier this year, which would come into effect in July 2015, requiring all food labels to list the amounts of trans fats in the product.

Only those food products that contain less than 0.3 grams of trans fats per 100 grams of the food are exempt from the labeling, the agency said.

“The second step to be taken by the agency is to hold an expert meeting discussing the feasibility of attaching a warning to food products that contain artificial trans fats,” FDA food division head Tsai Shu-chen (蔡淑貞) said.

When asked how the FDA would respond to a virtual elimination of trans fats in processed food products in the US if the US FDA’s latest policy decision were finalized, Tsai said that the proposal does not mean the elimination of trans fats.

If the decision is finalized, “PHOs [that were generally recommended as safe] would come to be considered ‘food additives’ not to be added to food products unless authorized,” Tsai said, adding that Taiwan’s FDA is planning, as the third step, to take the US FDA’s proposal into consideration to set a maximum limit and restrict the use of trans fats as a food additive.

The New York Times, reporting on the change, said the US FDA ruling “would all but eliminate trans fat,” since if PHOs, the source of trans fats, are no longer generally recommended as safe, the food companies “would have to prove that such oils are safe to eat, a high hurdle given that scientific literature overwhelmingly shows the contrary.”

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