The International Chewing Gum Association (ICGA) recently submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the agency’s proposal to revoke the  generally recognized as safe (GRAs) status for partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs). Noting that PHOs  are used in some chewing gum products “as softeners or texturizers at levels typically in the range  of 0.2 to 2 percent of the finished gum,” ICGA has criticized FDA’s tentative determination as  “misguided and overly broad.”

In particular, the association has argued that FDA’s blanket revocation violates “the legal and  scientific elements of the GRAs standard, which require a safety assessment for intended use by  experts in ingredient safety.” According to ICGA, the tentative determination not only represents  “a significant departure” from past efforts to reduce trans fat consumption through labeling  initiatives, but discards a previous determination that PHOs in amounts less than 0.5 grams per  serving “are effectively not present” in a product. In addition, the industry has cited a lack of  PHO alternatives at reasonable prices, claiming  that “it will take time to test and fully qualify  products for performance, stability and consumer acceptance before they are marketed.”

“[W]hile the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food has been drastically reduced in recent  years, they continue to be important functional ingredients at lower levels in many food products,”  concluded ICGA, which has asked FDA to avail itself of other regulatory approaches to reducing  trans fat in the diet. “As such, eliminating the GRAs status in all foods would have major  ramifica- tions for reformulating products in the food industry. We believe there are safe and  valid applications for partially hydrogenated oils in food that FDA should consider before making a regulatory decision to eliminate all uses..”