DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – At Glazed Donut Works, the average customer is not concerned about whether their donut is made with an oil containing trans fat or one that is trans fat-free, according to owner Darren Cameron.
But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certainly does care and on Thursday day, ruled for the first time that trans fats, found in vegetable oils processed with hydrogen, are no longer generally considered safe in foods. The FDA is taking steps toward banning trans fats saying removing the substance from American’s diets could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year.
Anticipating such a move, Cameron and his business partner, opened their shop using palm oil — which contains no trans fats. “We decided to go trans fat free oil for our production from the start so that we didn’t have to change later on,” he said.
Cameron was aware of the ban on trans fat that took place in New York last year, and didn’t want a change to affect flavor profiles for his donuts.
For others, however, the announcement from the FDA will mean serious restructuring of decades-old recipes.
At Marquez Tortilla Factory, homemade tortillas and Mexican pastries have been made the same way, with the same ingredients for more than 30 years. “I went into a bit of panic, thinking, ‘What are we going to do? And how is this going to affect our business?’” recalled Sally Venegas, co-owner of the company. “We use vegetable shortening which does have trans fat, but it’s essential for us to use.”
The company will now have to find new formulas, with new ingredients. The challenge will be finding a combination that keeps the same flavor their long-time customers have come to know and love. “It’s almost like having to start all over again,” Venegas said.
A small amount of trans fats can be found in some animal and dairy products but the main source is from vegetable oil processed with hydrogen. The processed oil becomes more solid and gives food products more texture and flavor and can be found mostly in processed foods, like cookies, crackers, baked goods, frosting, frozen pizza and microwave popcorn.
Trans fats have no nutritional value. Stephanie Dean, a registered dietitian at Baylor Medical Center Dallas, explained, “It [trans fat] actually lowers their good cholesterol and it can raise their bad cholesterol, their LDL.” When that happens, arteries get clogged and that can lead to heart disease, Dean said.
While the possible removal of trans fat from the American diet is just one component to a healthier lifestyle, Dean believes it’s a good thing for consumers. “This isn’t the one thing that is going to cure heart disease, but it’s a good component, it’s a good step.”
The FDA has yet to establish a timetable for banning trans fat. The organization will spend a few months collecting comments before deciding on the next course of action.
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