Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started its campaign to have trans fats completely removed from all foods in the country’s food supply. Trans fats, which is when food manufacturers mix hydrogen and vegetable oil, is found mostly processed foods.

In 2006, the FDA started requiring food manufacturers to list information of the trans fat content in their products. The Washington Post reported that according to the FDA, American trans fat consumption reportedly fell from 4.6 grams per day in 2003, to one gram in 2012. Trans fats are used to make foods taste better, extend shelf life, and enhance texture.

But in the last 20 years or so, trans fats have been removed bit by bit from grocery shelves and restaurants because of health risks.

“While consumption of potentially harmful trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Hamburg noted that if trans fats are removed from Americans’ diet, then heart attacks would go down by 20,000 and would save lives by preventing 7,000 heart disease-related deaths each year. According to scientists, trans fats have no health benefits and can raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol.  

Since nutrition labels started featuring trans fat information, food manufacturers also have been phasing them out bit by bit. This came after the FDA found trans fats no longer “generally recognized as safe.” If the motion to ban trans fats from all foods, the ban will not be completely strict. Any company wanting to continue using trans fats will have to petition to the FDA where they then must meet “rigorous safety standards” to prove no threat to public health.

Trans fat removal doesn’t seem to pose a harsh threat to any of the food manufacturing companies, even though FDA deputy commissioner Michael Taylor said that they “want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets.” However, Taylor do mention that it’s possible for companies to remove trans fats without “significantly disrupting their bottom lines.”

Nine years ago, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to pursue a trans fat ban. Banning trans fats is “one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take,” said CSPI director Michael Jacobson.  

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.