A trade association has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve low-level uses of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) in certain foods.
The food additive petition was filed a few months after FDA finalized its determination that PHOs, the main sources of artificial trans fat, are not safe. Food manufacturers must remove PHOs from their products by June 2018.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is seeking to persuade the FDA that there is a “reasonable certainty of no harm" from consumption of PHOs at the levels specified in its petition. The petition covers PHOs in various food categories, including protein drinks, breakfast cereals, meat alternatives and frozen pizza.
“Our food additive petition shows that the presence of trans fat from the proposed low-level uses of PHOs is as safe as the naturally occurring trans fat present in the normal diet," said Leon Bruner, Ph.D., GMA's chief science officer, in a statement. “It’s important to know that food and beverage companies have already voluntarily lowered the amount of trans fat added to food products by more than 86 percent and will continue lowering PHO use to levels similar to naturally occurring trans fat found in the diet."
GMA’s food additive petition is expected to face resistance from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
"There's little, if any, room left for the industrially produced kind from partially hydrogenated oils," CSPI’s Executive Director Michael Jacobson said in a statement, commenting on GMA’s petition. “But companies apparently want to market foods with a quarter or half a gram of trans fat in a serving. For some people, such as consumers of microwave popcorn and Cinnabons, the amounts could add up to a significant health risk. Safer substitutes for partially hydrogenated oil have been deployed for every kind of food, so there’s really no excuse to keep using it."
FDA’s ruling doesn’t affect naturally occurring fats in in beef, milk and other dairy products, GMA noted.