Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
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The FDA said Thursday that a common food ingredient is a 'significant public health concern' and lowering it even more could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year in the U.S. Doctors say it's important to get this out of your diet.

If you've had chips, crackers, cookies, cake, or fried food this week, you've almost definitely had trans fat. Look on the package label. You'll see some type of hydrogenated vegetable oil.

'I think that's dangerous because I think that if people are eating a diet of predominantly processed foods, which a lot of Americans are because it's cheap, they could actually be getting quite a lot of trans fat. And again, the science is clear, it is not good for you at all,' said Dr. Melinda Sothern, Director of Behavioral and Community Health Science at LSU Health Sciences Center.

In fact, the medical community began linking trans fats to heart disease back in the 70s and 80s.

Only now is the FDA ruling, for the first time, they are not safe. With all the data on how trans fats raise bad cholesterol, and new labeling showing the amount in food products, some fast food companies, restaurants, and food manufacturers have already cut or lowered the amount they use.

'You can make that fried food a little healthier if you use better oil, such as a canola oil or an olive oil. Unfortunately some of these restaurants are actually using partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,' said Dr. Sothern.

You've heard the saying that it's best to shop on the outside grocery aisles where things like produce are. That's because on the inside grocery aisles, it is very hard to find processed, packaged foods that don't have hydrogenated vegetable oil in them.

There's no ban yet, but there could be in the future.

'They really are not going to taste any different because the flavor in foods does not come from the oils. Everyone knows that it comes from the seasonings and sometimes sugar. They add added sugar to it,' said Dr. Sothern.

There is no final ruling yet on if there will be a national ban of trans fat. But studies show that when it was banned in New York City restaurants, that was effective in lowering the amount people got in their diets.

From the FDA:

100-year history of trans fats from the American Heart Association:

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