What are trans fats?

Artificial trans fats are the byproducts of a process called hydrogenation, a process wherein hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to alter its state. The main contributor to artificial trans fats in the food industry is Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO) which is used in many foods to make a longer-lasting product.

Many companies in the food industry utilize hydrogenation to give oils specific properties, mainly:

  • Increased melting point;
  • Longer shelf life;
  • Increased flavor stability/preservation of flavor.

However, large consumption of artificial trans fats, however, is dangerous to cardiac health. Trans fatty acids have been proven to have extremely negative effects on one’s health, most notably, cholesterol levels. Trans fatty acids increase the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and decrease the HDL (“good”) cholesterol in your body. Higher LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels contribute to plaque that can eventually clog arteries. On the other hand, HDL (“good”) cholesterol works to remove LDL cholesterol in the arteries, which helps to prevent stroke or heart attack. Therefore, the effects of trans fatty acids can lead to an increase susceptibility to heart attacks, the number one cause of death in the United States.


The negative health effects of trans fatty acids have prompted the U.S. federal government to take action. On June 17, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released their final determination that Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fatty acids, can no longer be categorized “Generally Recognized As Safe” (GRAS). With this decision, the FDA has introduced a plan to phase out trans fat over the course of the next three years, aiming to eliminate trans fat by June 18, 2018.

The three-year compliance period would allow companies to:

  • Adjust to the transition;
  • Reformulate the ingredients in their products;
  • Petition to receive FDA approval to use PHOs in cases where they are deemed safe.

The FDA’s decision to phase out trans fats was met with positive reactions by bakeries and other food companies, as many are looking forward to taking a proactive approach to providing healthier food options to consumers. Although, using trans fat free alternatives had some people concerned over food quality and higher expenses. To ease these worries, experts have predicted a smooth transition, claiming that use of trans fat free alternatives will not detract from the taste or texture of a product. As the new legislation comes underway, there are many food shop owners already actively looking for suppliers that carry trans fat free alternatives.

To learn more about the Trans Fat Ban and to read the official notice from the FDA, please click here: