Four years after filing a citizen petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking a prohibition on the use of partially hydrogenated oils containing artificial trans fat in food for human consumption, 98-year-old University of Illinois Emeritus Professor of Comparative Biosciences Fred Kummerow has filed a lawsuit seeking an order compelling an agency response to his petition and a declaration that its failure to ban trans fats violates the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Kummerow v. Hamburg, No. 13-2180 (U.S. Dist. Ct., C.D. Ill., Urbana Div., filed August 9, 2013). The complaint details the history of the ingredient’s invention and research, including the plaintiff’s own, demonstrating its “harmful effects,” including inhibition of an enzyme necessary to prevent blood clots in the arteries and veins. The plaintiff also distinguishes between artificial and natural trans fats, noting that he does not seek a ban on the latter.
According to the complaint, Kummerow learned in 2004 that his left coronary artery was 75 percent blocked and that he subsequently underwent coronary bypass surgery. He attributes the blockage to artificial trans fat and claims that a ban on partially hydrogenated oils “would help prevent these sorts of dangerous medical conditions.” The complaint also alleges that artificial trans fat causes cardiovascular disease; type 2 diabetes; breast, prostate and colorectal cancer; Alzheimer’s Disease and cognitive decline; and damage to vital organs. Alleging agency action unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed and action that is arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion, the plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including a court-ordered deadline for action on his petition, attorney’s fees and costs.