Trans Fat: FDA Regulations for the Food Manufacturer
As of June 18, 2018, the FDA has banned the use of artificial trans fats in any commercially sold food, in grocery stores or restaurants throughout the United States. As these food regulations for the food manufacturer were being enforced stateside, the World Health Organization then challenged other nations to remove all artificially created trans fats from their food products within 5 years time in an effort to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease worldwide.
That being said, in order to be compliant with these food laws, the food manufacturer must be aware of any trans fat that may be lurking within their recipes, yet there is still some mystery surrounding what constitutes a trans fat.
What is Trans Fat?
Trans fat can be placed in 2 categories: naturally-occurring and artificially created. The former can be found naturally occurring within meat and dairy products. The latter, is the category of main concern. Artificially created trans fats are also commonly known as partially hydrogenated oils. These oils are typically liquid at room temperature and can be usually classified as unsaturated fats. Good right?
Well, yes, until the hydrogenation process takes place. These oils, which can range from olive oil, to avocado oil to sunflower oil can be healthy in their natural state when consumed in moderation. Once hydrogenated, these once unsaturated fats take a turn for the worst and become the artery-clogging fat sources that we have all been warned about.
The Hydrogenation Process
Hydrogenation is a food manufacturing process that takes raw materials such as these healthy oils, and by infusing them with hydrogen until they become solid rather than liquid at room temperature. This increases their melting point and in processed foods, slows down the decomposition process and avoids rancidity. This is an appealing feature to food manufacturers for food production because it increases the shelf-life of a product.
Though they may increase shelf life and lower costs, trans fats have been proven unsafe for human consumption. Hence the FDA ban and new regulations put in place for the food manufacturer.
Why are Trans Fats Unsafe for Human Consumption?
According to the American Heart Association, trans fats have a negative impact on overall cholesterol levels. By raising cholesterol levels, this places one at risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease, and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Trans fats increase the incidence of plaque build-up within the arterial walls of the heart. The arteries of the heart are responsible for carrying blood to and from the heart. When the lining becomes narrowed by plaque building inside the arterial walls, proper blood and oxygen flow can not be facilitated. This then increases blood pressure and ultimately can lead to what’s known as a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the heart does not receive adequate oxygen.
The continuous intake of trans fat sets off this dangerous ripple effect, making them unsafe for human consumption.
How Do I Know if My Product Contains Trans Fat?
As a food manufacturer, this is an imperative question. Margarine and vegetable shortenings are the primary sources of artificial trans fat. If your product contains dairy, trans fat may occur naturally in small amounts. If your product is beef, lamb or contains butterfat, the same rule applies.
To be FDA compliant, a product must not contain artificial trans fats such as the aforementioned partially hydrogenated oils. However, naturally occurring trans fats must be cited appropriately on the nutrition label of the product containing trans fat.
On a good note, if your product does not contain naturally occurring or artificially created trans fats, you have the opportunity to place this badge on your packaging in the form of a health claim. A health claim about your food product is typically front and center around your main branding. A trans-fat-free product is an enticing food item to those who are watching their cholesterol, trying to improve their overall heart health or for those who are simply health-conscious. Health claims are a great marketing tool to reach particular audiences. So once you have managed to avoid trans fat in your food product, not only will you be FDA compliant within federal regulations and in line with good manufacturing practices, but you will also be able to tout this very-marketable health claim on your packaging. It’s a win-win all around!
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