FDA aims to ban trans fats to reduce heart attacks and strokes

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday it will require the food industry to phase out all trans fats.

Those are chemically produced fats often found in things like processed foods, frozen pizzas and ready-to-use frostings.

The FDA isn't setting a timeline for the trans fat phase-out, but will collect comments for two months before making a decision.

A registered dietitian at Conway Medical Center says the American Heart Association has determined there are no safe levels of trans fats in food.

"So trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease by increasing your total cholesterol and those bad LDL cholesterol levels," said dietitian Larissa Gedney.

ABC's chief medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser, told WPDE NewsChannel 15 eliminating trans fat is a step in the right direction, especially for a state with high numbers of heart attacks and strokes.

"The (Centers for Disease Control) estimated that if we can eliminate trans fats from our diet, it can prevent 20,000 heart attacks per year and save 7,000 lives every single year. That's big, even in South Carolina," Besser said.

Food manufacturers are now allowed to have up to .5 grams of trans fat per serving in a food product and still advertise the item as fat free, so Gedney says people are consuming a lot of trans fats and don't know it.

"By eliminating it all together, it's going to be easier for consumers to not have to decipher, does this really have trans fat or does it not have trans fat in it, because there won't be any to begin with," Gedney said.

Consumers should look for the words "hydrogenated oil" on the labels of food they buy, Gedney says. Those words mean the item contains trans fat, even if the product is called fat free.

Gedney says it's always a good idea to avoid foods high in fat, especially saturated fats or trans fats.

"And the less processed the food, the healthier it is."

Gedney says manufacturers put trans fats in products to make them tasty, so by taking trans fats out, food makers may put more of other things, like sugar, in.

But Besser says many fast food chains eliminated trans fats years ago and their products are still tasty and selling well.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.