America's trans fat affair: The story behind the artery-clogging additive

Donuts, cookies, pizza, burgers, French fries, popcorn.

It's no surpise that Americans' favorite foods are also some of the worst for them health-wise. But besides high calorie and sodium content, most people do not know they should avoid these foods due to one small but important ingredient: trans fat.

Trans fat, which is formed by combining hydrogen with vegetable oils, is used in many processed foods and fast food menus due to its preservative and binding properties. But in recent years the danger of trans fat — also known as trans fatty acid — and its negative interaction with cholesterol levels has increasingly gained recognition from researchers and policymakers. A series of studies during the 1990s began spotlighting the issue, but it wasn't until 2003 that the Food and Drug Administration required manufacturers to include the fat on nutrition labels.

The debate over trans fat came to a head this November when the FDA announced it was moving toward a total ban on the fat in all foods, whether they be manufactured or served in restaurants. The FDA has preliminarily determined hydrogenated fat is no longer "generally recognized as safe" and has enacted a 60-day comment period before a ban officially takes effect. Select cities, states and brands have already taken strides toward reducing or eliminating trans fat from food, but an outright ban would significantly impact food establishments and industries across the nation.

The story behind trans fat, and how it so completely made its way into our food, is a tricky one. Over the years, gradual steps have been taken toward banning trans fat, but these efforts have been met with by both resistance and receptivity by food makers, politicians and Americans alike.

“We have solid evidence showing the need for today’s action on trans fat.”

— Michael Taylor, FDA deputy commissioner for foods

Breaking Down the Fats

What makes trans fat so toxic

Trans Fat

Saturated Fat

Unsaturated Fats

Looking Back

How trans fat became so common in our foods and restaurants

Trans Fat: A History

Eliminating Trans Fat: Key Players

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The Impact

A full ban on trans fats will impact numerous manufacturers and companies in America's food industries


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Industries & Brands

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