Most news agencies are hailing the FDA’s draft decision to revoke trans fats’ GRAS status as a sign that the agency is working (after all). But many of you may be wondering what spurred the FDA to take corrective action now, after decades of research have reiterated just how harmful trans fats are. What prompted an agency best known for corruption and conflicts of interest to act in the best interest of Americans’ health now?
Well, as it turns out, the agency’s decision comes right on the heels of a lawsuit filed by Dr. Fred Kummerow, a 99-year old heart disease researcher who has been studying heart disease for about 60 years. He first wrote about the health hazards of trans fats all the way back in 1957. Dr. Kummerow filed a citizen petition with the FDA in August of 2009 to have trans fats banned, based on the scientific evidence of harm. The agency is legally required to respond within 180 days. Four years later, no response had been issued, so Dr. Kummerow resorted to suing the agency.
The lawsuit, Kummerow vs US Food and Drug Administration et al, was filed August 9, 2013 with the Illinois Central District Court. Listed defendants include Kathleen Sebelius, Michael M Landa, US Dept of Health and Human Services, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Margaret Hamburg, and the FDA.
According to an August 13, 2013 report by FoodNavigator.com, Dr. Kummerow “is seeking a judgment declaring that the FDA’s failure to ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils… and its delay in issuing a final response to his 2009 petition, violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.” Dr. Kummerow also sought “an order compelling the FDA to respond to his petition and to ban partially hydrogenated oils ‘unless a complete administrative review finds new evidence for their safety.’”
Considering the fact that evidence of trans fat safety is scant to say the least, it appears the FDA had little choice but to do what it should have done years ago, which is address a well-known toxin in the food supply. It’s just too bad that they have to be sued in order to do their job. According to a report by the St. Louis Dispatch.
“When asked whether Kummerow’s lawsuit had led to the FDA’s action, a spokeswoman for the agency said she could not comment on pending litigation. But on Thursday, attorneys for the FDA filed the agency’s trans fat determination as an exhibit in Kummerow’s lawsuit, and their proposal for the ban included a mention of Kummerow’s 2009 petition. “There’s no way to know if his petition or the lawsuit was the initiating event (for the ban), but the timing is interesting,” said Diana Yates, life sciences editor at the University of Illinois.”