The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just announced its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oil is no longer generally recognized as safe for use in food.
The move paves the way for a ban, or at the very least, strict limits on the fake fats, which are the primary source of artificial trans fats in the diet.
Artificial trans fats are formed when food makers turn liquid oils into solid fats in a process called hydrogenation. Hydrogenation increases a food's shelf life, but the science shows it also pumps the body full of artery-clogging fat.
Although the agency said that the average consumption of trans fats has declined from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012, FDA commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg said in a statement that further reduction would prevent more than 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 new cases of coronary heart disease each year.
Many food manufacturers have already taken steps to strip their products of artificial trans fats. But according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, hydrogenated culprits still linger in the American diet.
Here's a list of foods that must change their recipes or they could be illegal if the FDA trans ban is ever put in place.
You already know that fast food isn't exactly a nutritional bonanza so it's no surprise the drive-through is a likely source of trans fat. Also surprising, specialty burgers aren't the biggest offenders. Crispy chicken and seafood dishes and crunchy breakfast items that rely on hydrogenated fats for texture can have upward of 10 grams of trans fats per serving.
Some brands of microwave popcorn have successfully removed most traces of trans fats from their recipes, but you have to check the labels to know for sure. CSPI points out that several brands remain as high as 5 grams of trans fats per serving.
Many former trans fatties in this category are now free of fake fats, but once again, you should scan nutritional labels to make sure you aren't indulging in a frozen treat that delivers 3-4 grams of trans fat per serving. Watch out for cheese cakes and creamy pies that use trans fat to hold together shape and texture in the deep freeze. And smaller brands are often worse offenders than the larger national brands.
Think whipping up your sweet treats from a mix is a safer route to avoiding trans fats? Ready made pie crusts can contain 2-3 grams of trans fat per serving. And if you frost your own cake with canned frosting, you'll add 1-3 grams of trans fats to your semi-homemade dessert.
Not so long ago, margarine was considered a healthy alternative to butter. This is one food category in which trans fats are still very common. Many stick brands of margarine list at least 1.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Some contain as much as 3 grams per serving.