FDA's New Trans Fat Ban, the Revocation of GRAS Status, and How It All Affects Bakers - Sometimes Morally


In their latest press release, the FDA has revoked the GRAS ('generally recognized as safe') label for Trans Fats. And, it is giving all food manufacturers three years to remove partially hydrogenated oils - the leading source of artificially created Trans Fats - from their products.

From the press release:
The FDA has set a compliance period of three years. This will allow companies to either reformulate products without PHOs and/or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of PHOs. Following the compliance period, no PHOs can be added to human food unless they are otherwise approved by the FDA.
The American Heart Association is applauding this powerful move by the FDA, but notes on their blog that even though Trans Fats will be phased out, consumers will still need to read labels, as with the removal of partially hydrogenated oils in formulas comes the incorporation of solid saturated fats into those same recipes.

How does this affect bakers (and other food manufacturers)? Formulation and substitutions. A pretty good article "Bakers blast 'flawed' FDA trans-fat crackdown: 'It's unlawful, unnecessary and will have unintended consequences" from Foodnavigator-usa.com last year spells out how this will affect how many of them will look at partially hydrogenated oil derived emulsifiers in formulation - and that there are no real clear substitutions for them. Lee Sanders, SVP government relations and public affairs for the ABA was quoted as saying this in that interview:
[H]ydrogenation - both full and partial - is of particular importance to bakers because it is used in the manufacture of emulsifiers...for which there are no functional alternatives.
While my kids and their kids will most likely not eat the same products laden with Trans Fats that I did growing up (and be healthier in the long run simply because of that), it is a fact that food manufactures will have to scramble to create formulations that have the same mouth feel, shelf life, and moistness as do the current ones, which will affect prices. Cheap foods cheaply made may be a thing of the past, or we can hope, and better clean eating practices may develop over time.

So, not only are food manufacturers now looking at how to create equatable substitutions for any product that derives from the manufacture of Trans Fats along with avoiding Trans Fats entirely, some bakers are looking at how this will affect their bottom line, simply from the fact that Trans Fats are not as expensive as other fats - namely creamery butter. Essentially, all bakers bake to create a product to sell that hopefully customers will enjoy, and have it make a profit they can live on, and support their families, right? And is there a moral quandary with reformulation, concerning ourselves with businesses staying in business using Trans Fats at the expense of public health?

To weigh in on this quandary, Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org gives a wonderful answer to a question on this topic in "Trans-Fats and a Baker's Moral Dilemma" with this quote:
Most bakers think they're baking because they have to make a living. But we are human beings, not money-making machines. Whatever we do must have a deeper purpose. Including pastry making. Whatever the reason G‑d gave you this job, it wasn't in order to poison people.
And that pretty much sums up any arguments on that end.


+Renee Shelton
Twitter: @121degreesC
PastrySampler.com

 

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