FDA Moves to Ban Trans Fats from Food

By: Olivia Fecteau
By: Olivia Fecteau

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – Changes on the table for the use of trans fats in foods could have an effect on what’s served to children in schools.

Because of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools nationwide already cannot serve foods containing artificial trans fats to children. However, in line with current FDA regulations, foods containing trace amounts of trans fats – less than 0.5 grams – are considered “trans fat free.” With the FDA’s new proposal, all trans fats would be off limits.

“We have worked hard at removing the trans fat from school meals, so it's been several years that we feel that we have not been having trans fat in the meals,” Rhonda McCoy, the food services director for Cabell County Schools, said.

The district began removing trans fats from school menus in 2008, revamping what it buys and makes to substitute other products for ones that contain trans fats. For example, McCoy says, cafeterias now make pizza from scratch.

“Any label that had trans fat in it, we eliminated that right off so we did not purchase those foods,” McCoy said. “We looked for ways to create recipes in which we could adjust our meals in order to still have tasty meals, so we went to vegetable oils and olive oil.”

Still, the district says it’s a work in progress, especially if the FDA enacts new regulations banning trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils completely. At Huntington Middle School, McCoy showed WSAZ.com margarine used in the cafeteria that technically contains no trans fat on its nutrition label. However, its first ingredient is partially hydrogenated oil. McCoy said the district will continue to make substitutions if new regulations take effect.

Doctors say this could have a big impact on public health.

"Decreasing trans fatty acids or removing them completely would eliminate about 20,000 cardiac events a year,” Dr. David Frid of the Cleveland Clinic said.

The FDA has opened a public comment period for 60 days. If this takes effect, food manufacturers would have time to phase trans fats out of their products.

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