The World Health Organization launched their initiative to stop the use of trans fats by 2023 on Monday and has released a guide outlining strategies for how countries can eliminate the use of the fat, reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Trans fats are found in hydrogenated fats, which are created by forcing hydrogen in to unsaturated fats. This fat, used in processed foods like cookies, fried food, crackers, and peanut butter, is cheap and has a long shelf life. Countries like Denmark, Canada, and Switzerland have already begun to phase out trans fats. Next month all processed food in the U.S. will also not be allowed to have any processed trans fats. Despite all the health warnings, emerging countries still rely on the low cost of food made with hydrogenated fats, leading to increases in obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The Who says the initiative, known as REPLACE, could help save the lives of up to ten million people.
“It is a great thing,” said food critic and senior editor at The Atlantic Corby Kummer on Boston Public Radio Tuesday about REPLACE.
The concern about the health risks of trans fats are nothing new. Kummer says the debate over using trans fats has been raging since the 1970s. The debate turned a corner in 2006 when the Food and Drug Administration began requiring manufacturers to label food with trans fats, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg instituted the first municipal trans fat ban.
The reason this process took so long, however, has nothing to do with the price of other fats. “There are lots of cheap alternatives,” Kummer said. The problem companies faced was learning how to create the same product with different ingredients.
Kummer was worried about the effect losing trans fats would have on one food: the donut. “That was the only thing trans fats were demonstrably better at cooking," he said, noting that donuts can be made with other oils. "It made a lighter texture than anything else.”
To listen to the entire interview with Corby Kummer, click the audio player above.