On December 17, the FDA extended the comment period for its review on the generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) by 60 days. Stakeholders can now continue to submit scientific data and comments up until March 8, 2014.
But Tom Vierhile, innovation insights director at Datamonitor Consumer, said this 60-day extension is fairly insignificant considering the length of time industry has been discussing, and acting, on trans fats.
“To a major degree, the ship has already sailed on trans fats. Companies have been removing trans fats from food products without any specific regulations since the early 2000s – and even earlier than that. So I am not certain how a 60 day period on comments is going to change anything in the grand scheme of things,” Vierhile told BakeryandSnacks.com.
“If this regulation had come out a decade ago, or even a half decade ago, it would have been a potential game-changer. That just isn’t the case now.”
Companies that have been on top of things have been working to change formulations for nearly a decade now – many changes were made years ago, he said.
Trans-free claim is so common
The trans-free claim on pack is extremely common on packaged food products already, he said. “I would suspect that many consumers already believe there is a federal ban on trans fats.”
In 2005, New York placed a ban on use of trans fats in restaurants, and several other cities have followed suit since.
“A federal ban on trans fats in 2014 then is probably not going to be much of a shock to the system. Consumers, at least, have moved on to other health concerns like sodium and sugar contents which each have a greater influence on packaged food or beverage purchase decisions than trans fat does,” he said.
FDA has nothing to lose with 60-day extension
The move to extend the comment period is unlikely to lead to any major changes in proposed regulations, Vierhile said, but it does provide additional time for industry participants to respond.
“I don’t see the FDA having a lot to lose with the extension, and a 60 day extension for an issue that has been discussed for nearly two decades does not appear to be all that consequential.”