The World Health Organization wants to get rid of trans fat from the global food supply altogether, and it wants it gone in five years. To that end, the agency has revealed a plan that would remove the substance by 2023.
The step by step plan that WHO has just unveiled could spell a big difference in the world's health by that time, as the agency estimates that getting rid of trans fat would prevent 500,000 deaths per year from diseases linked to cholesterol and cardiovascular conditions.
The agency made the announcement on Monday, May 14, as they launched an initiative called REPLACE that will be the goal for all countries looking to get rid of artificial trans fats from their food supply, as CNN reported.
Artificial trans fats, as trans fatty acids are commonly referred to, are usually made from hydrogenated vegetable oil and similar fats. Hydrogenated fats are basically vegetable oil which has an extra hydrogen atom attached to its molecules using industrial processes, resulting in a substance that hardens into solid fat at lower temperatures, as the FDA described them.
It is also the substance commonly associated with higher levels of "Bad" cholesterol in the blood, also known as LDL cholesterol, that tends to clump up in arteries and increase the risk of developing heart disease.
Due to its longer shelf life and other characteristics, hydrogenated oil is commonly added to baked goods, snacks, deep-fried fare and cold pastries, and dough, like frozen pizza and cinnamon rolls.
It's also commonly found in things like frostings, vegetable shortening, coffee creamers, and stick margarine.
"Trans-fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there's no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed," said Tom Frieden, who now leads the health initiative.
"Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?" WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a separate statement as well.
Several countries, particularly the richer ones, have already limited or are on the verge of eliminating trans fats in packaged foods. In some places, partially hydrogenated oils have already been banned, cutting off one of the main sources of commercially produced trans fats from their food supply, according to the WHO via Reuters.
Other regions, however, still have a long way to go.
"There are countries where the risk is particularly high. In South Asian countries, they have very, very high risk of heart disease and high intakes of trans fats," Dr. Francesco Branca, director of the Nutrition for Health Department at the WHO, emphasized in his statement.
As an alternative, the WHO recommends oils rich in unsaturated fat, like sunflower or soybean oil.