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Food manufacturers in the United States must remove artificial trans fats from processed foods within three years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on June 16.

The agency has finalized its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) for use in human food. The FDA made a tentative determination in 2013 that PHOs could no longer be considered GRAS and has now finalized that determination after considering public comments.

The three-year compliance period will give companies time to either reformulate products without PHOs or petition the FDA to permit specific uses of them, FDA said.

Following the compliance period, no PHOs can be added to human food without FDA approval.

"The FDA's action on this major source of artificial trans fat demonstrates the agency's commitment to the heart health of all Americans," said Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff, M.D. "This action is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year."

Consumer trans fat consumption in the United States decreased by about 78 percent between 2003 and 2012, partly due to industry reformulation of foods and a requirement (introduced in 2006) to include trans fat content information on the food label.

The FDA anticipates that many manufacturers may eliminate PHOs from processed foods ahead of the three-year compliance date.