- In a Nov. 8, 2013, "Federal Register" notice, the FDA said it tentatively had determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) because they are the primary dietary source of industrially-produced trans fat.
- If finalized, the FDA’s proposed rule would mean food manufacturers no longer would be permitted to sell partially hydrogenated oils, either directly or as ingredients in another food product, without prior FDA approval.
- The American Bakers Association (ABA) responded to the proposal in a letter on March 7, in which they said that the industry has already worked on reducing trans fat voluntarily to achieve levels even better than FDA requirements: "Withdrawing the GRAS status of one source of trans fat, therefore, is an extreme, unprecedented and unnecessary approach and sets an unlawful standard for withdrawing the GRAS status of ingredients.”
The ABA argues that the move is unprecedented because it differs from policies on fat set by the World Health Organization and Canada. But they have not called for a complete ban on partially hydrogenated oils or trans fat. The ABA also argues that there could be negative consequences for such a ban, like an increased use in palm oil, which has high levels of saturated fat and is often linked to environmental devastation. Banning partially hydrogenated oils could also harm America's soybean industry.
Ultimately, though, this is another instance of a clash between those who believe that additional government regulation is a way to ensure safety and those who want to allow the industry to be self-regulating. The U.S. tends to favor self-regulation, as even the FDA's recommendation to stop administering antibiotics to animals is presented as a voluntary plan. Individual states, like California, sometimes impose additional regulations, but on the national level the country has a long tradition of laissez faire. Perhaps, though, that is going to change. What the FDA decides here may be telling of a new direction with a lot more regulations.