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The World Health Organization (WHO) urged all countries to get rid of trans fats in their food supply, with laws banning them if necessary.
The artery-clogging fats kill half a million people a year and they’re completely unnecessary, the WHO said.
“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?” asked WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Trans fats are used widely to make cookies, crackers, microwave popcorn and to fry fast food. They’re made by processing liquid oils to make them solid or semi-solid and to make them stay fresh longer than liquid fats. But the chemical process used to make them solid like butter also makes them clog arteries just as butter or lard does.
“Diets high in trans fat increase heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent,” WHO said.
They’re also found naturally in some meats such as beef and mutton, as well as in dairy products. There’s not a good way to remove trans fats from natural foods, but food policy experts agree there’s no place for artificially made trans fats in human diets.
Nutrition expert Dr. Marion nestle of New York University complained that WHO was not using plain language to tell people about trans fats.
“I wish that dietary recommendations would refer to foods, not nutrients,” she wrote in her blog.
“We don’t eat specific fatty acids,” Nestle added.
“Trans fats appear in highly processed foods. Therefore, they are a euphemism for snack and other foods containing them.”
The Food and Drug Administration has ruled that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS. As of next month, U.S. food manufacturers may not use trans fats in food products without FDA approval. Some cities, notably New York City, have also banned them.