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 called out by CSPI as trans fat offenders that could become illegal if the FDA ban moves forward.
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. Some menu items, like the Burger King Whopper, deliver just 1 gram of artificial trans fat. But Long John Silver's Breaded Clam Strips contain 7 grams per serving, and Popeye's Breakfast Hashbrowns contain 10 grams per serving.
Long John Silver's announced plans in August to switch to trans fat-free cooking oil by the end of this year.
Burger King has been cooking with trans fat-free oils since 2008, according to a company statement that says "all menu ingredients in the United States have zero grams artificial trans fat." Small amounts of naturally occurring trans fats, however, are present in meat and dairy products, the statement reads.
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 Pop Secret Premium Butter Popcorn still delivers 5 grams per serving and Jolly Time Blast o Butter Popcorn delivers 4 grams per serving. Company websites confirm this.
Many former trans fatties in this category are now free of fake fats, but once again, you should scan nutritional labels to make sure. Two notable examples: One slice of Sara Lee Classic New York style Cheesecake contains 3 grams of trans fats and Marie Callender's Peanut Butter Creme Pie contains 4.
Think whipping up your sweet treats from a mix is a safer route to avoiding trans fats? Mixes like Keebler Ready Crust Mini Graham Cracker Pie Crust and Betty Crocker Pie Crust Mix list 2 and 2.5 grams of trans fat per serving respectively. And if you frost your own cake with Pillsbury Creamy Supreme Chocolate Fudge Frosting, you'll add 1.5 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 where trans fats are still common. Many stick brands of margarine contain at least 1.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Walmart's Great Value Stick margarine has 3 grams per serving.