FDA: No more trans fats allowed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Heart-clogging trans fats have slowly been disappearing from grocery aisles and restaurant menus in the last decade, and now the Food and Drug Administration plans to finish the job.

Many people switch from butter to margarine thinking it's healthy, but Land O'Lakes margarine, for instance, has 3 grams of trans fats per serving.

Microwave popcorn is another common household food item, and Pop Secret's extra butter popcorn has 5 grams of trans fat per serving. There's three servings per bag, making it 15 grams of trans fat per bag.

Bisquick pancake mix has about a gram of trans fat per serving, but Bisquick is one of many companies that also has released a trans fat free version, such as with its Heart Healthy mix.

Jeriann Gonzales, a dietician at Memorial Hospital, said getting rid of trans fats all together should have been done a long time ago.

"Anything from mostly prepackaged foods and anything cookies, crackers, pie crusts, things like that, restaurants, a lot still use them, anything prepackaged, a lot of bakery foods," Gonzales said.

She said people may not realize trans fats are in many common foods. Vegetable oil contains regular fat, but when it becomes more saturated through processing, it becomes a bad fat that increases cholesterol, putting people more at risk for heart disease.

Pillsbury Grands Flaky Cinnabon rolls have 1.5 grams of trans fat per roll. Some other popular foods that have high trans fats levels are pies and pie crusts, cake mixes and frostings, breakfast sandwiches like Jimmy Dean items, and frozen or creamy beverages like milkshakes.

FDA officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for about 15 years. Gonzales said removing trans fats from foods needed to be done a long time ago, and she thinks it will be a successful move.

"I think, yeah, we will probably notice in some things it's missing, but I think we can compensate in good flavors and do the right thing," she said. "I think we can find ways to make foods taste good without having it in there."

The FDA said it will require the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats, saying they are a threat to people's health. Officials said the move could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year.

The agency isn't yet setting a timeline for the phase-out, but it will collect comments for two months before officials determine how long it will take. Different foods may have different timelines, depending on how easy it is to find a substitute.