Photo/ AP /Pat Wellenbach

FDA has banned trans fats, but does it get to the heart of the problem?

The heart-clogging ingredient, trans fat, has slowly been on the outs in restaurants and grocery stores in the last decade. However, on Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration made the announcement that it is finally beginning to phase out all trans fats, saying they are a threat to people’s health. By making this move, the FDA hopes to prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

Trans fats are most often used in processed food and in restaurants to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. They are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called “partially hydrogenated oils.”

With heart disease being the number one killer among Latinos in the U.S., this is a positive step, because trans fat is widely considered the worst kind for your heart. It’s even worse than saturated fat, which can also contribute to heart disease.

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However, Dr. Ricardo Salvador, the director of the Food and Environment Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists, says more needs to be done to improve the health of Americans.

“The FDA’s announcement will remove a dangerous ingredient from American diets, but it doesn’t get at the heart of the problem,” says Salvador. “The problem is that we subsidize ingredients for junk foods, like many that are derived from soybeans, turning them into cheap ingredients for processed foods _ and it costs us billions every year.”

He adds that we must also be aware of soybean oils, which are a pervasive ingredient in junk foods.

“We would avoid the need for this regulatory action, and save billions of dollars in healthcare costs from treating diet-related diseases, if we reoriented our food system to invest in the production of healthy fruits and vegetables instead of junk foods.”

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Though trans fats have been removed from many items, they are still found in processed foods, including some microwave popcorns, frozen pizzas, refrigerated doughs, ready-to-use frostings and margarines. Also, while many larger restaurant chains have phased them out, some smaller restaurants may still get trans fats from suppliers.

According the The Associated Press, the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned the FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago.

The group’s director, Michael Jacobson, said the move is “one of the most important life saving actions the FDA could take,” but he just hopes it moves quickly.

“Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do,” Jacobson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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