Don't get too attached to your movie theater popcorn. A year and a half after issuing a "tentative determination" that partially hydrogenated oils--the main source of trans-unsaturated fatty acids, ortrans fats--were unsafe to be consumed in any quantity, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is set to effectively ban the use of nearly all trans fats in food. (The ruling won't affect the "naturally occurring" trans fats in meat or dairy products.)
So if you've ever experienced a craving for such delicious junk-food delicacies as donuts, frozen pizza, coffee creamers, orcanned cinnamon rolls, or fast-food fare like the Wendy's Baconator or Domino's extra-thick pan pizzas, get ready for a mouthful of disappointment: They are all products that currently rely heavily on trans fats. Once the FDA rule is finalized, recipes for all of the above and more will almost certainly have to be changed.
Without trans fats, these foods might taste worse--donuts, for example, would be more oily in texture--or preserve less well. Either way, they won't be the same morsels you've always loved. The FDA is dead set on making life a little bit less tasty.
The FDA and its supporters in the public health community argue that trans fat restrictions are necessary as a health measure intended to remove a dangerous substance from the food supply. Ironically, for decades many public health researchers pushed trans fats as a healthier alternative to saturated fats.
In 1961, for example, Time featured physiologist Ancel Keys on its cover; inside, Keys warned consumers to stay away from saturated fats, such as lard and butter, which come from animals. In the 1980s, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which now supports the FDA's trans fat ban, went even further, arguing that trans fats could serve as a healthy alternative to saturated fats. The food industry turned to trans fats throughout the' 80s and' 90s in part because of a requirement that food products with saturated fat be labeled--a requirement which, of course, was put in place by the FDA.
It increasingly seems clear, however, that the old public health wisdom about the evils of saturated fats was wrong, perhaps wildly so.
It's notthatthe science is wrong this time. Certainly there's no significant evidence suggesting that trans fats are particularly...