The FDA has taken major steps to reduce artificial trans fat in the food supply. In the past, most of the trans fat in foods came from partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), formed through a manufacturing process that converts vegetable oil into a solid fat at room temperature. Trans fat also occurs naturally in food products from ruminant animals (e.g., milk, butter, cheese, meat products). The FDA’s actions have not affected these natural sources of trans fat.
Eating trans fat raises the level of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood. An elevated LDL cholesterol level in the blood increases the risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. Removing PHOs from processed foods is estimated to be preventing thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year. Because trans fat increases LDL-cholesterol, the FDA requires trans fats to be declared on the Nutrition Facts label.
In 2015, the FDA took the significant step of determining that PHOs, then the major source of artificial trans fat in the food supply, are no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe,” or GRAS. For the majority of uses of PHOs, June 18, 2018, was the date after which manufacturers could not add PHOs to foods. However, to allow for an orderly transition in the marketplace, FDA allowed more time for products to work their way through distribution by extending the final compliance date to January 1, 2021.
In 2023, the FDA issued a direct final rule to remove outdated references to PHOs in various regulations.
- Federal Register Notice: Direct Final Rule on Revocation of Uses of Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Foods
- Federal Register Notice: Companion Proposed Rule on Revocation of Uses of Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Foods
- Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils (Removing Trans Fat)
- Federal Register notice: Grocery Manufacturers Association; Denial of Food Additive Petition
- Federal Register notice: Declaratory order; extension of compliance date
- Federal Register Notice: Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils
- Federal Register Notice: Food Labeling - Trans (68 FR 41434)
- Guidance for Industry: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, Health Claims; Small Entity Compliance Guide
- More Guidance and Regulations