The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent out a huge warning shot to food producers yesterday, proposing regulations that would ban trans fats.
While the proposed ban is not likely most coffee retailers who use natural milk products and scratch bakery items, those who offer processed creamers or bakery items with partially hydrogenated oils may need to reconsider their sources. Trans fats, known to contribute to problems such as obesity and heart disease, are now officially labeled by the FDA as “not generally recognized as safe” for human consumption.
While U.S. food producers and restaurants on the whole have dramatically reduced the amount of hydroginated oil since the FDA first required trans fat content labeling in 2006, they are still widely used, to increase shelf-life and provide some flavor consistency. An FDA short list of processed products known to contain high levels of trans fats reads like a who’s who of coffee shop add-ons, including some coffee creamers, margarines and a range of desserts and baked goods.
One important reminder from the FDA announcement is that some coffee shops may have for years been unknowingly serving trans fats to their customers. Current FDA labeling requires trans fats to be listed in 0.5 gram increments, allowing for servings with less than 0.5 grams of trans fats to be labeled as having zero.
To put that into perspective, Americans currently consume about 1 gram of trans fats per day, according to the FDA. While down from the 4-plus grams U.S. consumers on average downed per day 10 years ago, it’s still enough to draw the FDA’s attention. As one practical example, Starbucks six years ago announced it was “eliminating” all trans fats from its drinks and baked goods, by asking suppliers for products with less than 0.5 grams per serving.