It's been a long time coming: Yesterday the FDA ordered the food industry to halt use of trans fats within three years.
The ban specifically applies to partially hydrogenated oils (known as PHOs), which are the main source of artificial trans fats in processed foods. After years of scientific research, the FDA has determined the use of these oils to be unsafe for human consumption. PHOs, generally used as additives to various packaged foods like microwave popcorn and canned frosting, were found to raise levels of harmful cholesterol and thereby increase the risk of heart disease.
In an official press release, the FDA stated that it made the move in order to protect the heart health of Americans. "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year,” said FDA acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff, MD. While the FDA reports that there has been a 78% drop in consumption of foods with trans fats as public opinion has turned against them, there are many foods that still contain them at harmful levels. In light of the ban, companies will have to reformulate their products to eliminate PHOs—and therefore be more heart-friendly.
Food manufacturers have until 2018 to remove artificial trans fats from their products. After that they'll need special permission from the FDA to include PHOs in anything they make. Until then, remember to carefully read your food label to avoid those sneaky trans fats still lurking in your favorite snacks.