HealthDay News — U.S. health officials have announced a plan to phase out heart-harmful trans fats in processed foods and restaurant fare that could prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

“The agency has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, a major source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not generally recognized as safe for use in food,” Hamburg said during a press conference. “This is an important step for removing harmful trans fats from processed foods.”

Many food companies and restaurants have eliminated trans fats over the past decade, in part because of FDA nutrition label changes enacted in 2006. And some local governments, including New York City, already prohibit their use.

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These restrictions have helped reduce trans fat intake among Americans from 4.6 grams daily in 2003 to about 1 gram a day in 2012, the FDA said. Even so, Hamburg said trans fats “remain an area of significant public health concern.”

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. The Institute of Medicine concluded that trans fats provide no known health benefits, and there is no safe level of consumption of trans fats, Hamburg added.

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