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FDA looks to permanently eliminate artificial trans fats from the food chain

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Trans Fats Shutterstock
Trans Fats Shutterstock

The Food and Drug Administration wants to rid your food of artificial trans fats once and for all. Today the FDA issued a preliminary notice that says partially hydrogenated oils — the primary source of trans fats — are no longer "generally recognized as safe." "Foods containing unapproved food additives are considered adulterated under US law, meaning they cannot legally be sold," said the FDA in a press release. Essentially, that would make it all but impossible for manufacturers to include trans fats, which have been directly linked to heart disease, in the food chain.

The FDA's proposed changes wouldn't have any bearing on natural trans fats; they apply exclusively to the artificial variety. Even so, experts believe these measures could prevent 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year. And according to the FDA, that's after a "sea change" that began more than a decade ago, when consumers started avoiding trans fats. Ultimately that led manufacturers to significantly lower the amount of PHOs in their food or eliminate them entirely. Still, trans fats often turn up in heavily processed foods and in some restaurants. The FDA says it will be "soliciting comments on how such an action would impact small businesses," and it's looking into how it can ensure a smooth transition if and when the measures are finalized.