The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday moved to eliminate trans fat from the U.S. food supply after determining that partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of artificial trans fat, are not safe for human consumption.
Trans fat occurs naturally in meat and dairy products, but artificial trans fat in processed foods can pose significant risks to human health, according to the FDA.
“This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year,” said FDA’s Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff in a statement.
Food manufacturers will have three years to rid their products of partially hydrogenated oils or petition the FDA to allow their use in specific circumstances approved by the agency.
Artificial trans fat is commonly used in products such as frosting, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas and pie crusts, coffee creamer and margarine to help extend the products’ shelf life.
Until the new ban on trans fat takes effect, the FDA urges consumers to check a food’s ingredient list for partially hydrogenated oils before purchasing.
Consumer advocates applauded the FDA’s move on Tuesday, but said the agency should do more to eliminate other potentially dangerous chemicals used in food without FDA review.
“FDA should do its own safety reviews of these chemicals and provide more transparency so the public can learn whether we are eating potentially harmful chemicals, and what actions the agency is taking to make sure that our food is safe,” said Erik Olson, director of the Health and Environment Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a statement.