The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)--the source of artificial trans fat in processed foods--are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in human food. Food manufacturers now have 3 years to remove PHOs from their products.

PHOs have been a common ingredient in processed foods since the 1950s, intended to prolong shelf-life.

“In this case, it has become clear that what’s good for extending shelf-life is not equally good for extending human life.” says Susan Mayne, director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. She's held that post since January.

The FDA’s decision--based on a thorough review of scientific evidence--is proof that the agency is committed to the “heart health of all Americans,” says Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the FDA’s acting commissioner. He expects to see a reduction in coronary heart disease and heart attacks, typically attributed to the consumption of trans fat.

Mayne reveals that the decision is expected to “save many thousands of lives”.

The 3 year grace period for food manufacturers not only gives them time to redevelop their products to not include PHOs, but they’ll also be able to appeal the ruling, asking the FDA for permission to continue including PHOs for specific uses. After June 18, 2018, no food manufacturer can legally add PHOs to human food unless it has been specifically approved by the FDA.