WASHINGTON, July 7, 2015 – House appropriators are pushing back on the Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to remove trans fats from the food supply and reduce sodium consumption.
The draft report by the House Appropriations Committee to accompany its fiscal 2016 Agriculture spending bill urges FDA to clarify that it doesn’t consider partially hydrogenated oils unsafe and to delay their phase-out.
The agency last month finalized a decision that the oils, which are the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, would no longer be considered “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) and gave food manufacturers three years to remove them from their products.
Removal of GRAS status from an ingredient means that companies have to get approval for its use. The industry is finalizing a petition seeking FDA approval to continue some limited uses of trans fats.
The non-binding report provision asks FDA to delay the phase-out until it acts on the petition, which could take two years.
“We appreciate the attention by Congress to FDA’s recent final determination on the GRAS status of PHOs to help ensure that the agency has acted in a manner that both protects public health and minimizes unnecessary disruptions to commerce,” the Grocery Manufacturers Association said in a statement.
Jim O’Hara, a former FDA official now with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said the provision appears aimed at trying to protecting food companies from lawsuits from their use of the oils. "This is clearly a shot across the bow at FDA, and we hope that FDA will stand strong by its science."
The committee stopped short of putting language in the spending bill itself to block FDA from carrying out implementation of the GRAS decision.
A second provision in the committee report criticizes the FDA’s effort to persuade the food industry to lower sodium content. The agency should stop pushing for consumption levels below 3,000 milligrams per day per day” until the science is formally considered surrounding healthy and safe sodium intake," the report says. FDA also is directed to request a new Institute of Medicine study on the impact of lower sodium levels on blood pressure.
The 2010 dietary guidelines recommend consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams a day and say that many groups, including African Americans and people over 51 years old, should not consume more than 1,500 milligrams.