Heart-clogging trans fatty acids may soon be a thing of the past. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken the first step to remove trans fats from its GRAS (generally recognized as safe) list, effectively banning their use in food products.
Trans fats, also known as hydrogenated vegetable oils, can be found in many processed foods, including baked goods, microwave popcorn, peanut butter, frozen pizza, margarine and coffee creamers. Created by adding hydrogen to liquid oils to turn them into a solid form, trans fats have been used to improve the texture, shelf life or flavor of foods. For more than a decade, numerous scientific studies have documented that trans fats raise dangerous LDL cholesterol and lower good HDL cholesterol.
The FDA’s proposed ban would require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, likely over several months or years, noting their threat to health. Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths. Many food manufacturers have already phased out trans fats since new nutrition labeling requirements were introduced by the FDA in 2006; plus an increasing number of local laws have banned them.