Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats, and they can raise so-called "bad" cholesterols, increasing the risk of heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States.
Many companies have already phased out trans fats, prompted by new nutrition labels introduced by FDA in 2006 that list trans fats and an increasing number of local laws that have banned them.
Though they have been removed from many items, the fats are still found in processed foods, including some microwave popcorns and frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs and ready-to-use frostings. They are also sometimes used by restaurants that use the fats for frying. Many larger chains have phased them out, but smaller restaurants may still get trans fats from suppliers.
As a result of the local and federal efforts, consumers have slowly eaten fewer of the fats. According to the FDA, trans fat intake among American consumers declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to around one gram per day in 2012.
FDA officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for around 15 years — the first goal was to label them — and have been collecting data to justify a possible phase out since just after President Barack Obama came into office in 2009.
The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says the move is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."
He says the agency should try and move quickly as it determines a timeline.
"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.
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