Two years ago, the Food and Drug Administration started taking steps to determine if trans fats should be eliminated from food. Today, the FDA announced it has made a decision. The food industry has three years to get rid of artificial trans fats, reports The New York Times.

What good can eliminating the artery clogging trans fats do? It’s estimated that it could prevent “20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.”

Trans fats in foods have been on the decline for the past decade because the science shows they aren’t the healthier version of animal fats they were once believed to be. In fact, trans fats, in the form of partially hydrogenated oils, raise the level of bad cholesterol while lowering the level of good cholesterol.

nutrition label showing trans fats

Photo: Taushia Jackson/Shutterstock

In 2006, when the FDA required trans fats to be labeled separately on nutrition labels, food companies mostly started to cut them out of products. Many labels read “0 g of trans fats,” but the FDA currently allows manufacturers to round down and claim a product contains no trans fats if it contains less than .5 grams of trans fats. The source of the trans fat may be listed in the ingredients list, but the nutrition listing can say zero.

Now, it seems foods will truly be trans fat-free, unless companies that petition the FDA to be able to use it under certain circumstances are given the permission to do so.

What foods still contain trans fats? has this partial list of foods that may still contain trans fats and will have to replace the trans fats in the next three years.

  • Discount and generic versions of snacks and cookies
  • Restaurant foods from restaurants that haven’t upgraded their deep fat fryers
  • Baked goods from local bakeries that don’t have to follow federal food labeling rules
  • Less expensive versions of microwave popcorn, stick margarine, coffee creamers, refrigerated biscuits and rolls and ready-to-use frostings (Most name brands have dropped ingredients with trans fats in recent years.)
Does this mean all foods will have healthy fats now?

We hear so much about healthy fats now that it might be tempting to think that with the artificial trans fats gone, all the fat in foods with be healthy. That’s not the case, though. There will still be some naturally occurring trans fats in foods from meat and dairy products as well as “those produced in very low levels in some edible oils during the manufacturing process,” according to the New York Times.

Many foods will also contain saturated fats. The amount of saturated fats in foods like baked goods has gone up since trans fats have been removed. Saturated fats, like those found in butter, eggs and cheese, were once considered unhealthy. The science is beginning to show that saturated fat may not be as evil as it was once thought, and it can be consumed within moderation. It may even add some health benefits. But, there is no consensus yet as to the amount of saturated fat that should be consumed safely daily.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.