Junk Food May Lose Its Junk, FDA Looks to Ban Trans Fat

By: Leah Uko

OMAHA (KPTM) - We may have to say bye-bye to junk food if food producers don't figure out how to make it with healthier ingredients.

The FDA took its first step toward possibly getting rid of most foods that contain trans fat. If this decision becomes official, according to the FDA, then partially hydrogenated oils will become food additives that could not be used in foods without approval. It is illegal to sell foods with unapproved additives.

Majority of trans fat is created when hydrogen is added to liquid oils, which turns them into solid fat.

According to the FDA, eating trans fatty foods increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, heart attacks and other related health issues because it raises levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol and lowers levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.

Artificial trans fat is found in foods such as cookies, crackers, pie crust, candy, microwave or packaged popcorn, hard shell tacos, french fries, chicken nuggets and frozen dinners.

Trans fat isn't all bad. It occurs naturally in milk, butter, cheese, beef, lamb, pork and chicken. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, research suggests that naturally occurring trans fat is not as harmful as artificial trans fat.

The current general manager at L.A. Fitness in west Omaha, Mark Sullivan said even though trans fat preserves food, it damages people in the long run.

"A pound of muscle is about the size of a racquetball. When a pound of fat is like softball," Sullivan explained. "So obviously that's going to increase your body fat and distort your body image."

The personal trainer and former fitness competitor suggested that people avoid eating junk food as much as possible to lessen their chances of developing diabetes.

"I haven't been a big fan of the government especially lately, but this is one area where out industry and the entire United States or the world will be able to benefit."

One local restaurant in the Aksarben area, however, already took steps to eliminate its use of trans fat.

The menu at Blue Planet Natural Grillers near 63rd and Center streets is completely trans fat free. Everything from the sweet and regular fries to the turkey, beef and veggie burgers is made without trans fats.

The restaurant's general manager Dan Tweedy said while the food it offers tastes good, it's hard to convince that to the public.

"There's still a lot of misconceptions about healthier food," Tweedy continued. "A lot of people won't want to come in here, who like to go out to a place that has burgers and fries."

But the restaurant serves all these items.

"It's just done in a much more healthy way without all of the junk that they put in food."

Trans fat intake among American consumers went down from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about a gram a day in 2012, according to the FDA.

The FDA opened a 60-day period on the determination when it will review data and get input on the time manufactures will need to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat, according to FOX 42 news partner CNN.

FDA officials said in the meantime, people should buy products that have the lowest combination of saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat.