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The Food and Drug Administration is moving to get rid of trans fat altogether.
In a proposal announced Thursday and available for public comment for two months, the FDA will no longer designate trans fats as safe for consumption in any added amount. The changes could prevent as many as 7,000 deaths and 20,000 heart attacks per year, it says.
“Many scientists and health officials believe there is no safe amount of trans fat,” the Los Angeles Times says. “Trans fats are produced when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid. The result, artificially hydrogenated oil, is a culprit in clogged arteries that eventually lead to heart attacks.”
For that reason, along with the FDA’s increasing scrutiny, many restaurant chains and manufacturers have reduced or eliminated trans fats in recent years. But manufacturers don’t have to identify trans fats when foods contain less than 0.5 grams of the oils, the Times says, so some use has continued under the radar. They appear in all kinds of processed foods, and the FDA gives many examples:
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods.
- Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn).
- Frozen pizza.
- Vegetable shortenings and stick margarines.
- Coffee creamers.
- Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls).
- Ready-to-use frostings.
Even if the FDA successfully bans trans fats, it can’t get rid of them altogether. They also occur naturally, in small amounts, in meat and dairy products. The American Heart Association recommends no more than about 2 grams of trans fats per day, preferably from those natural sources.