The Food and Drug Administration announced on Tuesday a final three-year timetable to eliminate artificial trans fats from foods in the U.S. The reasoning behind the widely anticipated ban is pretty straightforward. Trans fats, usually added to processed foods via partially hydrogenated oils, the FDA says, are not “generally recognized as safe… for use in human food.” Fish food? Perhaps. But you might want to wait for the science to settle on that one.
The reason artificial trans fats are not considered a safe addition to human food is also pretty straightforward—it gives people heart attacks. More precisely, it contributes significantly to clogged arteries and heart disease. The FDA estimates striking trans fats from the American diet could prevent an astonishing 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 heart disease-related deaths each year.
Trans fats were once thought to be a healthier alterative to animal fats, such as butter and lard. Healthier and less expensive, trans fats found their way into baked and fried goods. Research on the health impact of trans fats, however, swung in the other direction by the 1990s and between 2003 and 2012 trans fat consumption plummeted 78 percent, according to the FDA.
The FDA’s plan was first announced in 2013, but Tuesday’s timeframe is final. “[Trans fats] have already been substantially reduced in foods, but they still lurk in many popular products, including frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines, coffee creamers, graham crackers and granola bars,” the New York Times points out.