The move towards a ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) in processed foods became one step closer on Thursday, as the United States Food and Drug Administration released a preliminary finding that PHOs do not fit the category of Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS for short.
The debate over the use of PHOs in processed foods has been like a slow moving train. In 2004, Denmark imposed restrictions, while in 2008, Switzerland followed suit. Canada faced a voluntary trans fat reduction period in June 2009, while today, the Food and Consumer Products of Canada reports to the CBC that the majority Canada's food supply is trans fat-free. Even Health Canada suggests that 80% of pre-packaged foods have met the reduction targets.
The U.S. has success stories of its own. New York City banned trans fats in restaurant foods in 2006, while other cities and counties and even the the State of California have also followed suit.
What's at stake, according to the U.S. government, is the health of the population. The move is suggested to eliminate 20,000 cases of coronary heart disease and prevent 7,000 deaths annually.
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This is good news for the canola industry. The industry has long worked hard to present the merits of this healthy oil, which has been reported to actually reduce the chance of heart disease. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration paved the way for the following label to be place on U.S. food products:
"Limited and not conclusive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 1/2 tablespoons (19 grams) of canola oil daily may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to the unsaturated fat content in canola oil. To achieve this possible benefit, canola oil is to replace a similar amount of saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. One serving of this product contains [x] grams of canola oil."
In the article "7 Foods That Won't Be the Same If Trans Fats Are Banned" released by Time.com, experts weigh in on how the food we eat will change. The seven foods include doughnuts, crackers, movie theatre and microwavable popcorn, frozen pizza, coffee creamers, refrigerated dough products and canned frosting. Within the discussion surrounding the potential changes to come, canola oil was mentioned twice, while the potential switch to vegetable oils was also mentioned twice.
In an account of the switch away from trans fats in New York City, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the way on trans fat ban, seven years ahead of FDA ban.
Associated Press reports the massive changes which hit the New York market:
"More than a dozen fast-food giants swapped cooking oils. Bakeries found alternative types of shortening. Even Crisco, the original artificial trans fat, got a new formula."
While no changes will occur overnight, the work of the Canadian industry will undoubtedly continue to lead the charge towards a healthier diet, while providing opportunity to the farm community.
Cliff Jamieson can be reached at email@example.com
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