For decades, food manufacturers have known about the dangers to the health of consumers caused by hydrogenated oils, and yet, until recently, food manufacturers were able to claim innocence by saying that their ingredient was not really proven to be dangerous, or that it is perfectly legal to use. Today, however, the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates the human health hazards correlated with the consumption of hydrogenated oils and trans fatty acids, which means there is no longer any reasonable justification for the use of this ingredient in foods, other than the profitability of the foods being marketed to consumers.
Using hydrogenated oils in foods is a strategy used by manufacturing companies to enhance the taste of their foods, add calories to their foods and extend the shelf life and shelf stability of those foods. This all adds up to higher profits for food companies. The real costs of using this ingredient, however, are shifted to consumers (a process called externalizing costs). Those include the starkly increased risk of a number of degenerative chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, birth defects, cancer, malabsorption of healthy oils and the universal breakdown of cell wall structures throughout all organs and tissues of the body, including nervous system tissues (eyes, brain, spinal cord, etc.).
Hydrogenated oils are so dangerous that I've authored a report on them called "Poison in the Food: Hydrogenated Oils," which can be found at TruthPublishing.com. This ingredient is so dangerous that the World Health Organization urged all member countries to outlaw it decades ago (in 1978). In the decades since, food manufacturers have been able to put enough pressure on the USDA and the FDA to keep this deadly ingredient legal, and all the while, they claimed that it was actually good for your health. Remember the hype and promotion of margarine that food experts said was better for you than butter? That was pure marketing propaganda designed to sell soybean oil, the vast majority of which was hydrogenated and contained trans fats (and still does, as you'll see right on the label).
At least the Girl Scouts has the courage to admit the truth about this ingredient. Right on their website, in the FAQs on Girl Scout cookies, they openly state, "...in fact, trans fats are not a healthier choice than saturated fats." Then why do they continue to use the ingredient? Their answer is that people really shouldn't eat these cookies in any kind of quantity because they're just plain bad for you: "It is important to remember that Girl Scout Cookies are a snack food and are meant to be consumed in limited quantities within the context of a balanced diet." Yet Girl Scouts sell these cookies by the case to parents, neighbors and friends, most of who (incorrectly) assume that the innocent-sounding Girl Scouts organization wouldn't dare use an ingredient that was actually proven to harm you. And as long as they state the trans fat content on the nutrition facts label, the truth is that their use of this ingredient is entirely legal (even if it is unquestionably unethical).
This trans fat labeling requirement by the FDA is really a food warning label. It warns consumers that the food contained inside the box is truly bad for them and may, in fact, accelerate and promote the onset of degenerative disease. It's much like the warning labels on cigarettes, which tell you that smoking cigarettes can cause cancer. Except in this case, there's no disease named, but let's be honest: Eating hydrogenated oil promotes cancer, birth defects, cardiovascular disease and many other diseases that ultimately kill people. Even if it doesn't kill a particular person, it can put them on prescription drugs for the rest of their life. It is my hope that consumers will now recognize the dangers of these oils and boycott all food companies that continue to use them.
Food companies that knowingly put this poison into foods should be heavily fined. Better yet, hydrogenated oils should just be banned like the World Health Organization advised in 1978. It should never be allowed in the food supply, and companies that use the ingredient should have their inventory confiscated by the Food and Drug Administration, which occasionally confiscates so-called "dangerous herbs" when they post a threat to public safety, but never confiscates dangerous foods due to their hydrogenated oil content. On this issue, the FDA routinely caves to the pressures from private industry and has taken absolutely no action to ban this toxic ingredient, despite the undeniable evidence of its harm.
When it comes down to a decision between doing what is right and doing what is profitable, food and beverage corporations will choose the profits every time. In fact, they are required by law to do so. Any corporate officer discovered to be making decisions that reduce the maximum profitability of the corporation would be charged with a breach of fiduciary responsibility and could be sued by the shareholders of that corporation. Corporations, you see, do not exist to serve the public interest, nor to do what is ethical or principled. They exist for one purpose only: Maximizing shareholder profits using whatever means necessary (some of which are legal). And if the FDA keeps hydrogenated oils legal, the food companies will continue to use them in their foods, regardless of the degree of harm caused by such ingredients.
Allowing hydrogenated oils to remain legal is a direct violation of the FDA's stated directives, which include protecting the public from food, drug and cosmetic manufacturers who may use dangerous or toxic ingredients in their products. The FDA has utterly failed to protect the public from toxic ingredients and continues to demonstrate its own failure with each and every decision that places corporate profits ahead of consumer safety.
There's no question that consumers are harmed by the consumption of hydrogenated oils, and yet the FDA continues to allow this ingredient to be legally used, sold and marketed in products that will be repeatedly consumed by families, parents, children, senior citizens and other groups that are at high risk of chronic disease or nutritional disorders. It is my hope that companies that continue using hydrogenated oils will ultimately be held legally and financially responsible for the harm their products are causing consumers.
I believe there is justification for a global class action lawsuit against food companies that insist on using this ingredient even after scientific proof leaves no doubt that it causes harm, and even death, when consumed over a long period of time. This is not simply a question of consumer choice, as the food industry attempts to claim. No manufacturer has the right to put poisons into their food products and then blame the consumer by saying he or she had a choice of whether or not to purchase that product. There is a fundamental responsibility by food companies to produce foods that do not contain poisonous ingredients, and hydrogenated oils are essentially slow-acting poisons that directly threaten human health.
Companies that put poison into their food bear full responsibility for the health results that emerge as a result of the widespread consumption of those poisons. Federal regulators, whose job it is to police these industries, are criminally negligent in allowing the ongoing use of toxic ingredients in consumer products of all kinds. The new FDA food labeling requirement for trans fats is a tiny step in the right direction, but in no way does that step represent what the FDA is legally required to do in this situation, which is to ban this ingredient from all food and beverage products. FDA decision makers who continue to allow this ingredient to be legally used have failed their country. What could be more unpatriotic than poisoning your own people? To call these FDA decision makers traitors is generous.
By the way, consumers who are waiting around for the giant food corporations to "do the right thing" on their own are going to be sadly disappointed. Corporations will only do the right thing after they are sufficiently convinced that doing so will be more profitable than simply ignoring the issue. Ethics has nothing to do with the decision, and people who suffer under the illusion that for-profit corporations take ethics into account in any way whatsoever are living in la-la land. In the real world, like here in the USA, corporations are willing to make money at any cost. Including your health.
Don't believe me? Go read the ingredients on the thousands of food products found in your local grocery store. You will discover an impressive collection of disease-promoting chemicals and substances listed right on the label: Hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrite, monosodium glutamate, sugar, artificial chemical sweeteners, artificial colors, homogenized fats and many more. It's like walking into a chemical factory... but it's triple coupon day!