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Scientists have been warning about the artery-clogging dangers of trans fat for some time.

Now the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is proposing to ban them from all retail food products.

In 2006, the agency required the listing of trans fats on all products sold at retail, and the ensuing backlash by consumers led many companies, including major chains like McDonald’s to eliminate trans fats in cooking.

The three types of dietary fat are:

  1. unsaturated fat (vegetable oils, fish and the fats found in some nuts)
  2. saturated fat (butter, “marbled” steaks and roasts
  3. trans fat (either in the form of margarine or in processed foods & baked goods)

Unsaturated fats come in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated varieties, but the key culprit according to nutrition experts is trans fat. Also known as partially-hydrogenated oils, they’re made by adding hydrogen gas to vegetable oils. The hydrogen causes the oils to solidify, and they’re very common in baked goods, cookies, frozen pizza, coffee creamers and microwavable popcorn. The hydrogenation process increases shelf life and has made producing shelf-stable baked goods a multi-billion dollar industry.

Many CPG houses have already removed trans fat from their formulations some years ago, but they’re still common in some food categories, as well as in restaurants and other foodservice products. The FDA would remove the “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS) designation, thereby requiring food companies to prove that the product was not harmful if they wanted to continue using it. Nearly all scientific writings condemn artificial trans fat, and the Institute of Medicine refuses to certify any safe level of trans fat consumption.

According to this article in the New York Times, the removal of trans fats from most foods or in cooking at restaurant chains has led to steep declines (585) in the levels of the fats in the blood of Americans. However, “trace amounts” (less than a 1/2 gram) do not have to be listed on labels. Since many scientists feel there is no safe level of trans fat consumption, this poses an elevated risk of heart disease.

While some trendy fats like olive oil and fish oils have been toasted as health miracle cures, fats are still fats. As a matter of information, the government recommends that people consume no more than 20-35% of total total calories each day from fat, with consumption of saturated fats like butter and animal fats to 10%.