skip to main content

FDA Acts to Reduce Consumption of Trans Fats: What You Need to Know

PHO alternatives available for product reformulations

Call 1-877-376-6250 to see how Cargill can help you reformulate products to remove transfats while retaining flavor, texture, consistency, and shelf life.

As of June 16, 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This means that after June 18, 2018, the use of PHOs in food will only be permitted after FDA approval.

PHOs are food oils that have extra hydrogen added to make them easier to handle and improve their shelf life. However, partial hydrogenation creates trans fats. Consumption of high levels of trans fats has been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Trans fats have come under scrutiny for this in recent years, with many cities and countries mandating labeling and regulating their use.

For more than twenty years, Cargill has been applying its knowledge to bring to market the next generation of healthier fats and oils.

“We have the alternatives that can replace PHOs in most products,” says Bob Wainwright, innovation director for Cargill Oils. “It’s something that we’ve been working on for a long time. We are prepared to help food makers meet the new requirements.”

5 Things to Know About PHOs and Trans Fats Infographic

5 Things to Know About PHOs and Trans Fats

5 things to know about PHOs and trans fats

Partial oil hydrogenation is a process that optimizes the functionality and shelf life of food oils and fats, has come under fire for its creation of trans fats and its link to cardiovascular disease. Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is removing the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) designation in an effort to reduce health risks for consumers.

1. A historical glance at PHOs

Partially hydrogenated oils have long been a controversial issue. Starting in the 1990s, Consumer groups start worrying about PHOs. Mounting scientific evidence shows a correlation between high levels of trans fat  intake and higher ‘bad’ cholesterol. In 2003 The FDA requires trans fat levels on the Nutrition Facts panels of food products. Food manufacturers immediately begin reducing PHOs in their products. In 2006 the FDA’s 2003 decision takes effect, trans fat labeling is now mandatory in the U.S. In 2013 the FDA tentatively determines that PHOs are no longer GRAS. In 2015 the FDA determines that PHOS are no longer GRAS and as of June 18, 2018, may only be used after FDA approval.

2. PHOs, trans fats and your food

Scientists agree that PHOs are unhealthy at higher levels of consumption. Since 2003, food manufacturers have reduced PHOs more than 80%. However, they may be safe at levels below 3% of daily calorie intake – research in this area is ongoing. The World Health Organization recommends limiting trans fat to less than 1%. For a typical 2000 calories per day diet, that is 2 grams = 20 calories of daily energy consumption.

3. Alternatives to PHOs

A variety of alternatives have proven effective at replacing partially hydrogenated oils, including

  • Naturally solid fats, such as palm and palm kernel oil
  • Oils lower in saturates and high in monounsaturates, such as high oleic canola oil
  • Emulsifiers and hard fractions of fat
  • Interesterified oils, blends of liquid and fully hydrogenated or non-hydrogenated hardstocks
  • Fully hydrogenated oils

4. The myth of FHOs vs. PHOs

A popular misconception is that "if partially hydrogenated oils are bad, fully hydrogenated oils must be worse." Not so. Fully hydrogenated oils are in fact much healthier.

Here’s why: The partial hydrogenation process creates molecules within the so called ‘trans’ configuration, with hydrogen (H) atoms diagonally across from each other. That’s why they’re called ‘trans’ fats. Fully hydrogenated oils don’t have that configuration, so they don’t have the same potential to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

5. Cargill trans fat replacement solutions

For more than 20 years, Cargill’s scientists have developed solutions for replacing PHOs without compromising flavor, texture, shelf life, and consistency in products consumers have come to love and trust. Cargill has been working with food manufacturers in and outside of the U.S. to provide safe and healthier alternatives to PHOs. Cargill’s helped more than 300 manufacturing partners move away from PHOs without sacrificing quality since 2011.

If you are using PHOs in your product, now is the time to reformulate. Cargill can help: 1-877-376-6250.