Lawyer: Expect calls for extension of comment period on FDA crackdown on trans fats

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Lawyer: Expect calls for longer comment period on GRAS, trans fats

Related tags: Trans fats, Trans fat

Food manufacturers are likely to ask for an extension to the 60-day comment period set by the FDA to consider its proposal to revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), a food law attorney has predicted.

Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after the FDA published its preliminary determination on PHOs​, Venable LLP Food and Drug attorney Dr John Moore, said: “I think this will attract a lot of comments from industry and public interest groups and I’m expecting calls for an extension. 60 days is not very long to respond to something this complex.”

He also expects that many firms may push for an alternative to a ban on PHOs (where liquid oils have hydrogen added to make them more stable and more solid at room temperature), and instead push for changes to labeling or perhaps setting a maximum threshold for trans fats.

“I expect that many people in the industry will suggest that this is the best approach.”

Meanwhile, if a phase out is chosen as the best way forward, firms will push for it to take place over a number of years, he predicted.

American Soybean Association: We need to tackle trans fats without raising saturated fats

Commenting on the FDA action, Mississippi soybean farmer and American Soybean Association president Danny Murphy said significant quantities of next generation high oleic soybean oils (that don't need to be partially hydrogenated to be stable) would be available by 2016.

"Since it will take a few years to ramp up high oleic soybean production to provide an economical alternative to food processors, we believe any final FDA determination on the matter should reflect this timeframe."

He added: "Given that the food and vegetable oil industries have already moved to greatly reduce trans fats in food products and in Americans' diets, we do have questions about the need for FDA to take this proposed action. Further, we have concerns that if the FDA were to finalize this determination, food processors may be pressured to replace remaining partially hydrogenated oils with those high in saturated fat such as palm or coconut oils, which would not be a good outcome for consumers."

In its preliminary determination - which you can read here​ - the FDA acknowledges that all refined edible oils contain some trans fat as an unintentional byproduct of their manufacturing process, while trans fats also occur naturally in some meat and dairy products in small quantities.

However, it has focused on PHOs as they are the primary source of trans fats in the diet - and can contain 10-60% trans fats.

Click here​ for more on this story.

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1 comment

No justifiable reason for artificial trans fats to still exist

Posted by Jo Paska,

The progressive and responsible oils and fats suppliers and their food clients, switched to non-hydrogenated and low saturated fats in 2004. Not a single, justifiable reason is there for the part hydro oils to still exist in our food-10 years after FDA announced trans fats labelling. It is irresponsible to drag this FDA effort down the delay path, so the lawyers can make money. There is also no reason to delay the FDA decision until soybean society commercializes its latest new trait soy oil version, there are so many other options in existence, including the regular soybean oil. It is extremely important to understand that palm and coconut oils are economically and functionally essential, and no version of soybean oil can replace them. Do we really still demonize saturated fats after decades of research disproved that theory? SATURATED FATS DO NOT RAISE "BAD" CHOLESTEROL, like artificial trans fats indisputably do. FDA should revoke the GRAS status for artificial trans fats without hesitation. To the resistant oils and fats manufacturers who still maintain hydrogenation units - please either convert them into intereterification vessels, or use them to produce "candle wax"; it is much simpler and lucrative business, not overly regulated.

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