Trans fat finale: At last, the FDA gets tough on a health threat

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The Food and Drug Administration has finally said what scientists have been saying for a long time about trans fats: People should not be eating them.

The federal agency responsible for the safety of the nation's food supply said Thursday that it is considering what would amount to an almost complete ban on manufactured trans fats, which are linked to high cholesterol, diabetes, even macular degeneration.

The proposed rule says that the FDA has tentatively determined that partially hydrogenated oils -- the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fats -- "are not recognized as safe for any use in food." If the rule becomes final, food manufacturers would not be able to sell them directly or as ingredients without prior FDA approval.

That is good news for consumers. Now, trans fats are banned from sale in some places but not in others. With a federal rule in place, restrictions on trans fat would be uniform throughout the country.

Since 2006, manufacturers have been required to list trans fats on nutrition labels, their consumption by Americans has fallen significantly and many restaurant chains have eliminated them from their menus.

The FDA's proposed ban is a sound next step, but consumers must remember that a lack of trans fats doesn't necessarily mean an item is nutritious. An apple fritter is not an apple.

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