After trans fat ban, what else should be removed from food?

NEW YORK -- Since the 1950s, artificial trans fats have been a staple of processed foods. They provide consistency in flavoring and extend a product's shelf life.

Now the Food and Drug Administration has determined that no amount is safe for human use. The FDA estimates the trans fat ban could prevent up to 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.

"This is just a recognition of the fact that these are dangerous to your and my health," Dr. Michael Roizen, a physician at the Cleveland Clinic, told CBS News.

In 2006, the FDA required trans fat labeling. As manufacturers and restaurants removed it from products, trans fat consumption dropped 78 percent. But they can still be found in a wide range of goods.

"They remain in a lot of fried foods, packaged crackers and packaged breads," Roizen said. "One of the real reasons they were put in there is they let things live forever."

Companies have three years to comply with the order to remove trans fats altogether.

"That's already in existence in Canada," Roizen said. "I don't know why it's going to take three years in the United States, to bring what the food companies have already done in Canada to the United States.

Exposing food industry secrets

Erik Olson of the National Resources Defense Council says it's not just trans fats that may pose health risks.

"There are a lot of chemicals in our food supply that people have no idea are in there," Olson said. "There are some of these artificial flavorings chemicals and artificial coloring chemicals. Some of them pose a cancer risk, others pose risk to developing children."

Right now, it can be tough to know if a product truly has no trans fats. That's because products with less than half a gram per serving can still say zero on the nutrition label.

That won't be allowed in three years. But for now, the FDA suggests checking the ingredients label.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook