Food companies will be able to petition the FDA to gain approval of specific uses of partially hydrogenated oils if they have data proving the use isn’t harmful. Companies will have until June 2018 to comply with the FDA’s determination, either by removing trans fat or gaining a waiver. The FDA said it hasn’t seen any data to prove that even low levels of partially hydrogenated oils are safe.
The food industry has been using partially hydrogenated oils for decades, though many such as Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Group Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc. have been phasing them out. Many baked goods such as pie crusts and biscuits as well as canned frosting still use partially hydrogenated oils because they help baked goods maintain their flakiness and frostings be spreadable. As for frying, palm oil is expected to be a go-to alternative, while modified soybean oil may catch on as well.
“I don’t know how many lives will be saved, but probably in the thousands per year when all the companies are in compliance,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.