The FDA announced Thursday it will initiate a plan to gradually phase out all trans fats out of the food supply.
The fatty hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats are used to increase the shelf life of products and keep flavors balanced. Products like microwave popcorn, canned frosting, refrigerated cookie dough, stick margarine and frozen pizza frequently use the artery clogging ingredient.
Trans fats have no known nutritional value for the human body. In fact, scientists say it increases "bad" cholesterol and lowers the "good" cholesterol. Trans fats also raise the risk of heart disease, which is known as the leading cause of death in America.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the elimination of the trans fats could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths per a year.
The FDA is "responding to the fact that the science really demonstrates that trans fat provides no known health benefit and that there really is no safe level of consumption of trans fat," Hamburg told USA Today. "Consumption should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet."
The FDA will allow 60 days for the public to comment on the new process to eliminate trans fats from Americans' diets. After the time period is up, the FDA will remove trans fats from the "generally regarded as safe" category which has traditionally been reserved for thousands of additives that companies can add to foods without FDA inspection. As a result of its removal from this list, any company wanting to use the hydrogenated oils that contain trans fats will be required to petition the agency. A petition that would most likely be denied the FDA says.
Scientists say that removing the FDA seal of approval for trans fats may be a small step, but it is a critical one that they have been working on since 2009. But even before 2009, the FDA was making efforts to limit trans fat intake. In 2006 the FDA required all food with trans fats in it to include it on the food's label. Also in 2006, New York City asked restaurants to eliminate the artificial trans fats foods from their menus.
These actions forced many restaurants and food manufacturers to find substitutes for the oils and eliminate trans fats from their cuisines completely. American's intake of trans fats has been drastically reduced from 4.6 grams a day in 2003 to one gram a day in 2012 according to the FDA.
Michael Jacobson, Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest told AP news that this plan is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."
He thinks the FDA should move forward quickly so they don't lose momentum.
"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.