Trans fat, the ‘oh-so-much-better-for-you’ substitute for the perceived horror of animal fat, has now received FDA’s death penalty. Funny how a couple decades can make such a difference.
In a move as predictable as a Kardashians’ cat fight, the Food and Drug Administration announced earlier this week that the agency would require food manufacturers to eliminate so-called trans fats — partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs) — from food products within the next three years.
FDA officials first began reviewing the GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) status of trans fats back in 2013 and have now determined that PHOs are now not recognized as safe.
“This determination is based on extensive research into the effects of PHOs, as well as input from all stakeholders received during the public comment period,” Susan Mayne, FDA’s director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, stated in a news release.
By stakeholders, Mayne is referring to the same cabal of dietary activists who shave pent lifetimes demonizing the consumption of saturated fat from animal sources and demanding that companies and consumers alike should switch to PHOs. Now, however, they’re the first ones to start shouting that trans fats — which they practically (and literally) forced down Americans’ throats for a good 30 years — are really, really bad for you.
By the way, do you know when trans fats were first marketed as “healthier” choice for cooking and food processing? Answer: More than a century ago.
In fact, in the 1870's, when Proctor & Gamble was just two guys named William Proctor and James Gamble, the fledgling company was a big seller of pork lard and beef tallow, which were used almost exclusively for cooking and baking and food processing. Then in 1911, P&G introduced Crisco, an “all-vegetable shortening” that was marketed for “frying, baking and cooking.”
When the hysteria over saturated fats reached a zenith in the 1970s and 1980s, consumer and nutrition activists, led by the zealots at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, were pounding the drum for the food industry to roll back the public health scourge of animal fats in red meat and dairy products — by replacing them with vegetable fats.
Like partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Like Crisco.
So what’s CSPI’s current position on the very same PHOs they spent years championing as an essential way to lower the incidence of heart attacks and deaths from heart disease? Here’s what its executive director Michael F. Jacobson had to say about FDA’s new rule phasing them out.
“The eventual elimination of artificial trans fat from the food supply will mean a healthier food supply, fewer heart attacks and heart disease deaths, and a major victory for public health.”
Jacobson went on to add that artificial trans fat “promotes heart disease by raising LDL, or bad cholesterol, and lowering HDL, or good cholesterol.”
That’s exactly what CSPI said about saturated fat for more than 30 years.
A switch in time
And it’s not like the health risks of a wholesale switch from animal fats to processed vegetable oils suddenly crept up on the scientific community.
As the Washington Post noted in a recent story, a University of Illinois professor named Fred Kummerow back in the 1950s began examining the arteries of people who had died from heart disease.
“He made a jarring discovery,” the story noted. “The tissue(s) contained high levels of artificial trans fat, a substance that had been discovered decades earlier but had become ubiquitous in processed foods throughout the country.”
Kummerow, who is still alive at 100 years old, by the way, showed that rats developed atherosclerosis after being fed trans fat. When it was removed from their diets, the atherosclerosis disappeared.
And here’s the clincher: Prof. Kummerow first published his research warning about the dangers of trans fats in 1957!
Understandably, the food industry isn’t exactly thrilled with FDA’s proposal to get rid of PHOs — but not for misguided nutritional reasons, but because of economics. Eliminating trans fats means spending more on R&D, re-tooling of product formulations and investments in new labeling, marketing and positioning.
But no matter how loudly industry squawks — and to date, the response has been more of a murmur than an outcry — it can’t remotely approach the decibel level of the . . . well, let’s be kind and call them “misguided” activists whose opposition to animal foods put unhealthy trans fat at the center of the average American’s diet.
Hypocritical doesn’t even begin to describe their behavior in lionizing the very ingredient they now denounce.
All because they hate meat products and the people who produce them.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator