The Food and Drug Administration may have made a strike against heart disease last week by moving to rid artificial trans fats from processed foods, but green groups are worried the pro-health move may have an environmental dark side.
The FDA last week told manufacturers to get rid of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from processed foods, the primary source of artificial trans fats linked to heart disease. But as a replacement, manufacturers are likely to turn in part to palm oil. It's cheap, it's plentiful, and it can more or less re-create that creamy, flaky quality that made trans fats such a hit in baked goods.
But palm oil comes from palm plantations, which have been linked to widespread deforestation and human-rights abuses. And that has environmentalists worried that, without attention from outside groups or government intervention, the increased demand for palm oil will mean an increase in the environmental destruction that comes with it.
To be sure, greens don't oppose the latest ban and its artery-opening benefits. They're just worried that there hasn't been enough consideration of the unintended consequences.
"Trans fats are bad and it's a good thing they're banned, but there's a worry that companies will go from something bad to something arguably worse," said Laurel Sutherlin of the Rainforest Action Network. "It's causing a perfect storm of destruction for people and the planet."