Bye-bye, trans fat: FDA moves to spread NYC ban nationwide

Jun 2, 2015 at 10:45 a.m. ET

Could this summer be our final goodbye to trans fats? It's looking that way, according to a new report from the New York Post.

The FDA is expected to make the final call on June 15, making good on a 2013 threat to take partially hydrogenated oils off the list of substances "generally recognized as safe," meaning manufacturers will have to make a case for keeping the fats in their products or remove them completely.

"It’s about time," Dr. Thomas Farley, the New York City health commissioner who helped champion the city's 2006 trans fat ban, told the Post. "Trans-fat is an artificial chemical. It never should have gotten into our food supply in the first place. It’s toxic over the long term and it’s easy to get rid of."

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So, it's supposed to be bad, but what exactly are trans fats? Simply, these fatty acids are made by adding hydrogen to liquid oil, which then transforms into a solid. It's popular with processed food manufacturers because it helps inexpensively improve the shelf life and texture of foods. It's used in foods ranging from creamers to cookies to chips — and everything in between.

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Don't mourn your McDonald's fries and Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits just yet, though. There's no indication on how exactly the FDA will enforce a ban — and how long it'll take to get all foodmakers to comply. Ultimately, you might not even notice they're missing. A 2012 study on NYC's trans fat ban found that "most New Yorkers" didn't even notice the missing ingredients, though there haven't been any long-term studies on how coronary heart disease and other diseases blamed on trans fat have been affected as a result.

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Still, pro-ban advocates are confident this will help American health in the long term. "This is going to be a huge win for the public health," Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told the Post.

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