FDA's transfat ban may boost food prices
By John Browne
Published: Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
The Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to require the food industry to remove artificial trans fats from the food Americans eat. However, the FDA emphasized that it would give food manufacturers time to change recipes.
By doing this, it was hoped, the rule change would minimize market disruptions and allow corporations to spread over several years the estimated costs of some $8 billion.
Common artificial trans fats are made largely through a process called “hydrogenation,” when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. Those familiar with organic chemistry will recall that this process causes the chain of carbon atoms to become fully saturated with hydrogen atoms, leaving no double bonds. This gives rise to the alternate name of “saturated” fat.
High fat consumption has long been recognized as detrimental to health. Trans fats consist of triglycerides containing saturated fatty acids, like oleic and elaidic. Food companies use them as effective preservatives and solidifiers.
Regrettably, many of our favorite foods contain trans fats. But the National Academy of Sciences concludes there is no safe level of trans fat consumption.
In 2004, Denmark legislated to restrict trans fats. In 2006, New York City banned trans fats from restaurants. While the British Medical Journal called for virtual elimination, a vacillating government called merely for voluntary curbs.
Although the Grocery Manufacturers of America says that, since 2005 manufacturers have lowered trans fats by more than75 percent, the FDA maintains 12 percent of packaged foods still contain them.
Between 2003 and 2007, McDonald's, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken resisted — but then complied — with mandated trans fat restrictions.
McDonald's website claims there is no trans fat in any of its food. Sara Lee's website, however, reveals only partial conversion. For instance, their whole wheat bread, buns and rolls have no trans fats. No such assurance applies to their muffins or “Thin-Style Buns.”
The label on Sara Lee's “Whipped & Fluffy Strawberry French Cheesecake” shows “0 trans fat.” However, shoppers should be aware that if the trans fat content of a serving is less than 0.5 grams, the producer can, under FDA rules, show the content as “0.” Doubtless, the FDA will eliminate this loophole, together with the covert massaging of serving sizes.
While Heinz and Nestle are reportedly ahead of the curve in eradicating trans fats, likely they have incurred considerable costs to do so and that is likely passed on to consumers. Kraft Foods has, according to director Peter Wilson, invested 30,000 hours in trying to convert its famous Oreo cookie. It is too soon to tell whether Oreos will retain their classic taste.
For some, however, costs have proved to be low, especially as new trans fat-free cooking oils with extended “fry lives” have been developed from soybeans and sunflowers.
A Wendy's spokesman declared the cost of its switch away from trans fats was “cost neutral.” The owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken's third-largest franchise, John Neal, said switching to trans fat-free oils costs mere “pennies.”
While people may become healthier as a result of the FDA's edict, they may pay more for certain foods.
John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Trib Total Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 73-home subdivision plan approved for Westwood Golf Club
- Starkey: Fleury’s future at stake
- Forward officials announce furniture sale
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Five years later, Crosby wants another Cup win
- Indiana company gets OK to sell former West Mifflin municipal building
- Husband-wife resignations leave Lincoln short-handed
- Duquesne police make drug arrest
- Glassport council to crack down on absentee landlords
- Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies
- Penguins’ Malkin expects to play in Game 1