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FDA Wants to Ban Trans Fats from Food

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The Food and Drug Administration has declared war on trans fats. The government agency said Thursday it would require food makers to gradually phase out artificial trans fats - the artery-clogging ingredient found in crackers, cookies, pizza and many other baked goods.

The change could potentially prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths, said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

While the amount of trans fats consumed by Americans has dropped dramatically over the last decade, they still "remain an area of significant public health concern," Hamburg said during a press conference.

The FDA hasn't yet set a time table for sweeping trans fats from the market. "We want to do it in a way that doesn't unduly disrupt markets," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods. Still, the "industry has demonstrated that it is by and large feasible to do."

Trans fats are considered harmful because they increase risks for heart disease by both raising bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering good cholesterol (HDL). In 2006, the FDA began requiring food manufacturers to include trans fats on nutritional labels, and in 2007, New York City banned trans fats from restaurants. Food marketers have been gradually going trans-fat-free in recent years -- McDonald's switched to zero-trans fat cooking oil in its iconic french fries in 2008.

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg celebrated the FDA's proposal. "Seven years ago we became the first city in the nation to prohibit restaurants from using trans fats," Bloomberg said in a statement. "Since then, at least 15 states and localities have followed suit and banned trans fats - and more than 10 fast food chains have eliminated trans fats entirely."    


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