FDA move to ban trans fat will speed changes at General Mills

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With the federal government ready to declare trans fat unsafe at any level, Twin Cities food maker General Mills may have to accelerate its phase out of the cholesterol-building fat.

The Pioneer Press reports General Mills is still using trans fat in dozens of products, ranging from cinnamon rolls to Bisquick. The newspaper says it's particularly used to add flakiness to baked goods.

But as WCCO reports, the Food and Drug Administration considers it the worst kind of fat for the heart because it promotes the buildup of bad cholesterol. For that reason restaurants and food companies have been transitioning away from it for years. The station says New York City banned trans fat seven years ago and ten fast food chains no longer use it.

Thursday the FDA announced it is ready to declare that trans fat is not safe for use in food at all. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg says trans fat use has declined over the last 20 years, but adds that further reductions could prevent 7,000 deaths per year from heart disease.

The FDA says it's opening a 60-day comment period on its decision. Unless it changes its mind, the agency would then set a timetable for eliminating trans fat from food sold in the U.S.A.

Bloomberg spoke to an analyst who thinks the decision will not change very much for food companies or their investors, since trans fat is already on the way out.

General Mills says more than 90 percent of its products have zero trans fat. The Pioneer Press reports that at Marshall-based frozen food maker Schwan the figure is 98 percent.

A Marketplace reporter put four dollars into a vending machine in a vain effort to find a snack food that contains trans fat. But the program offers a list of some American favorites that used to contain trans fat. Oreos, McDonald's french fries, girls scout cookies, and Triscuits are among them.

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