Trans fats may not be much longer for this country -- and, like many other public health initiatives, we have outgoing New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, at least in part, to thank.
Trans fat is the stuff created when hydrogen gets added to vegetable oil through a process called “hydrogenation,” which has the benefit of making oil less likely to spoil, but also more likely to raise harmful cholesterol levels.
The Food and Drug Administration announced earlier today that it will take steps to eliminate trans fats from the American food supply by no longer describing the heart-clogging ingredient as "generally recognized as safe," a label that allows food companies to use trans fat without specific FDA approval.
"FDA can act when it believes an ingredient is, in fact, not GRAS [generally recognized as safe]," the FDA announced Thursday. "And that's what the agency's preliminary determination is doing now with partially hydrogenated oils. A Federal Register notice was published on Nov. 7, 2013 announcing the preliminary determination that PHOs are not GRAS."
Behind the national push to eliminate trans fat -- as is true with many public health initiatives of late -- is Bloomberg's effort to drive them out of the country's largest city in 2006.
In 2006, Bloomberg made “trans fat” the new public health enemy No. 1. New York City’s ban on “trans fat” barred restaurants from using hydrogenated vegetable oil in cooking. It took full effect in 2008. Thirteen cities followed suit afterward.
This is at least the third Bloomberg public health policy to go national, following bans on smoking in public places and calorie count listings in chain restaurants.