FDA Bans Trans Fats

The FDA recently issued its final decision on trans fat - revoking its Generally Recognized as Safe status (GRAS) and therefore effectively banning them from the food supply. The food industry has been given three years to phase out trans fats completely from the food system. Until then, trans fats are easy to spot in packaged foods - just look for "partially hydrogenated oil" in the ingredients list. Trans fats can still be found in products like cake frostings, pancake mixes, taco shells, microwave popcorn, margarine, and baked goods such as hamburger buns and tortillas. 

Trans fat raises your LDL (the "bad") cholesterol and lowers your HDL (the "good") cholesterol, increasing your risk for heart disease. 

In 2003, the FDA required trans fat to be present on the nutrition facts label as of January 1, 2006. This prompted many companies to begin removing trans fat from their products.

In 2007, New York City put into effect a regulation that restricted trans fat use in all New York City food service establishments. 

For more information on trans fats, visit the FDA, the American Heart Association, and the Center for Science in the Pubic Interest (CSPI).

And for additional reading on food and public policy:

Helena Bottemiller Evich for Politico

Corby Kummer in The Atlantic


Sneak Peek: DGA 2015

The big nutrition news this week is the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee's Scientific Report. It offers a sneak peak of what the updated 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, nutrition standards that influence national nutrition policy and are mandated to be updated every five years, might look like. This report is always very long (this one clocks in at almost 600 pages) and goes into exacting, scientific detail on what they recommend we eat. For a brief overview, read the Executive Summary

A few talking points: 

The 2015 DGAC’s work was guided by two fundamental realities. First, about half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable, chronic diseases, and about two-thirds of U.S. adults—nearly 155 million individuals—are overweight or obese. These conditions have been highly prevalent for more than two decades. Poor dietary patterns, overconsumption of calories, and physical inactivity directly contribute to these disorders. Second, individual nutrition and physical activity behaviors and other health-related lifestyle behaviors are strongly influenced by personal, social, organizational, and environmental contexts and systems. Positive changes in individual diet and physical activity behaviors, and in the environmental contexts and systems that affect them, could substantially improve health outcomes.
The overall body of evidence examined by the 2015 DGAC identifies that a healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts; moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meat;i and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains. 

Federal policy makers will review this report and use it to write the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which will likely be released at the end of the year. 

Here is what a few others are saying:

NYTimes: Nutrition Panel Calls for Less Sugar and Eases Cholesterol and Fat Restrictions

Washington Post: Think of Earth, not just your stomach, panel advises

Marian Nestle at Food Politics: Report is "courageous"

Checking in on America as a Culture of Health

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation strikes a note of optimism as they look back on 2014 and recount 10 public health events of the last year as evidence that America is moving towards a Culture of Health. There is plenty to be excited about - as noted, an increased interest in worksite wellness programs by employers, 7,700 CVS drugstores no longer sell tobacco products and more college campuses are adopting healthy policies. 

For all 10, visit the RQJF website: Top 10 Signs We are Building a Culture of Health

Feeding kids in the age of Big Food

In the latest Food Issue of The New York Times Magazine, they take on the often baffling, sometimes polarizing topic of What Should Children Eat?

Addressing food policy, the article Lunch Money is a great primer on the unfortunate current partisan battle over the nuts and bolts of the National School Lunch Program.

A photo essay on what kids eat around the world for breakfast is a great reminder that kids really can eat anything. 

Tucked inside the article How to Raise a Good Eater by Mark Bittman are some key points illustrating larger issues that reach beyond what even the most well-intentioned parent can do:  

Food companies spend billions of dollars a year marketing junk food to children and fast food to everyone; they’ve made certain that snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages are available practically everywhere.

...the battle over feeding children really pits Big Food against parents, and Big Food’s resources are vast: almost unlimited money, little regulation and tacit government support. 

And along with encouraging parents to make dinner from scratch whenever they can, he ends with a suggestion that I enthusiastically support:

Another thing that would be great? Let’s make cooking lessons (and good old home ec) in school standard, not a rarity. 

That would be great. Let's make it happen.