Pass the margarine—while you still can. Recent speculation by the FDA surrounding the banning of trans fats has many people enjoying their potential last moments with “original recipe” fried foods and cholesterol-raisers. Aside from different ingredients in some comfort food, a trans fat ban would offer some considerable savings for consumers in long-term healthcare and related costs, but the impact to the costs of foods that currently contain trans fats, as well as products that rely on the seed oils seen as replacements for trans fat-containing partially hydrogenated oils, is more uncertain. Whether this is indicative of government control is debatable—however the positive health impact is hard to argue. As for businesses, there are considerable savings through the use of alternative oils.
One option, tropical oils, offer similar tastes and textures when used in products, but come from plants. In particular, tropical palm oils (known as palmitic acid) are said to help lower cholesterol. Palm kernel oil, as of September 2013, was priced at $725.80 per metric ton, while margarine is about $1000/ton. Another option, coconut oil, would still provide savings as it is $985 per metric ton. A key reason trans fats were appealing to businesses was their preservative nature. Switching away will not compromise this trait, as coconut oil has a shelf life of at least two years and palm kernel oil is extremely stable as well.
Although many companies in the food industry have already altered their ingredients due to the concern of health officials, the change would not produce much recognizable difference in foods—to the extent that many consumers won’t even know the change occurred. Thanks to the Huffington Post article, “Will You Even Notice The Trans Fat Ban?”, Rachael Rettner observes the ease of this process due to how unnoticed getting rid of trans fat has been in the past.
Pulling these oils into the food industry could impact costs elsewhere, however, as other industries use of naturally derived oils. American industries go through hundreds of millions of tons of seed oils, 600-800 million pounds of castor oil in particular, annually. These oils, and their derivatives, are used in the manufacturing of soaps, lubricants, hydraulic and brake fluids, paints, dyes, coatings, inks, cold resistant plastics, waxes and polishes, nylon, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes. For businesses seeking naturally created oils, they may see an increase in their MRO spend as increased demand for these seed oils may limit available supply and raise costs.
This ban would lead to prevention of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease in mass amounts of people in America—where currently 36% of the population has the condition. There would be billions of dollars saved in health care and related costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease amount to an estimated $305 billion in the United States in 2009. If a nationwide ban on artificial trans fats reduced the costs of cardiovascular disease by only 10%, this would save $30 billion per year.

Photo Courtesy of: HuffingtonPost.com

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Heather Grossmuller

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