Food manufacturers are likely to ask for an extension to the 60-day comment period set by the FDA to consider its proposal to revoke the GRAS status of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), a food law attorney has predicted.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA after the FDA published its preliminary determination on PHOs , Venable LLP Food and Drug attorney Dr John Moore, said: “I think this will attract a lot of comments from industry and public interest groups and I’m expecting calls for an extension. 60 days is not very long to respond to something this complex.”
He also expects that many firms may push for an alternative to a ban on PHOs (where liquid oils have hydrogen added to make them more stable and more solid at room temperature), and instead push for changes to labeling or perhaps setting a maximum threshold for trans fats.
“I expect that many people in the industry will suggest that this is the best approach.”
Meanwhile, if a phase out is chosen as the best way forward, firms will push for it to take place over a number of years, he predicted.
American Soybean Association: We need to tackle trans fats without raising saturated fats
Commenting on the FDA action, Mississippi soybean farmer and American Soybean Association president Danny Murphy said significant quantities of next generation high oleic soybean oils (that don't need to be partially hydrogenated to be stable) would be available by 2016.
"Since it will take a few years to ramp up high oleic soybean production to provide an economical alternative to food processors, we believe any final FDA determination on the matter should reflect this timeframe."
He added: "Given that the food and vegetable oil industries have already moved to greatly reduce trans fats in food products and in Americans' diets, we do have questions about the need for FDA to take this proposed action. Further, we have concerns that if the FDA were to finalize this determination, food processors may be pressured to replace remaining partially hydrogenated oils with those high in saturated fat such as palm or coconut oils, which would not be a good outcome for consumers."
In its preliminary determination - which you can read here - the FDA acknowledges that all refined edible oils contain some trans fat as an unintentional byproduct of their manufacturing process, while trans fats also occur naturally in some meat and dairy products in small quantities.
However, it has focused on PHOs as they are the primary source of trans fats in the diet - and can contain 10-60% trans fats.
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