The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), a major source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in food. Michael Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said that removing GRAS status from PHOs would mean they would be “considered food additives and could not be used in food unless authorized by regulation, based on a demonstration of safety.” Consumption of trans fat can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by raising low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol,” and the Institute of Medicine has concluded that there is no safe level of consumption of trans fat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, removing PHOs from processed foods could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 coronary deaths each year. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg called the announcement “very important” and said it “will help Americans when making healthy food choices.” Trans fat intake has declined in recent years from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to about 1 gram per day in 2012, Taylor said. This is due, in part, to an FDA requirement adopted in 2006 that trans fats be listed on the nutrition facts panel, which spurred many manufacturers to reformulate their foods to decrease trans fat levels. “There still remains a substantial number of products which contain partially hydrogenated oils on the market,” Hamburg said. PHOs are still found in certain products such as microwavable popcorn, coffee creamers, margarine, cookie dough and frozen pizza. In addition, less than half a gram of artificial trans fat per serving in a product is not required to appear on nutrition labels, so, as Marion Nestle reported, manufacturers can say their product has “zero trans fat” while still including a little. “Artificial trans fat is a uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease, and today’s announcement will hasten its eventual disappearance from the food supply,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in a statement. “Not only is artificial trans fat not safe, it’s not remotely necessary.” For now, a 60-day comment period has opened on the proposal to allow industry, health professionals, and the public to weigh in on whether to finalize the determination and how long it would take manufacturers to reformulate their food products to eliminate PHOs.