What Are Trans Fats and What Foods Contain Them? New WHO Plan to Eliminate Them Announced

In this photo illustration, a Marie Callender's pie, which has 3.5 grams of trans fat, and Land O Lakes Margarine, which has 3 grams of trans fat, are seen together on June 16, 2015, in Miami Beach, Florida. The WHO announced a new plan to phase out trans fats from the food supply. Land O'Lakes margarine no longer contains trans fats. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The World Health Organization announced a plan Monday to eliminate foods containing industrially produced trans-fatty acids, or artificial trans fats. The move is part of a plan to guide the work of the WHO through 2023, according to a release.

The fats are generally considered by doctors to be bad for your heart, according to the Mayo Clinic. In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, they can raise the levels of bad cholesterol in the body while lowering the levels of good cholesterol.

There are some naturally occurring trans fats in some foods made from animals—like dairy and meat—but the artificial trans fats are the ones the WHO is calling for a ban on.

Those fats are often found in common fried foods, fast food and snacks, and sometimes in desserts as well, according to the WHO. This is because they're used in partially-hydrogenated oils, which were first used as a butter replacement and then later as a replacement for foods containing saturated fatty acids.

The United States Food and Drug Administration set a three-year compliance period in July of 2015 that said companies either had to make their products without partially hydrogenated oils or petition to be allowed to use them. The determination from the FDA said that removing the trans fats "could prevent thousands of heart attacks and deaths each year."

"The compliance date is still June 18, 2018. While we cannot estimate a percentage of products on store shelves that will be free of PHOs on June 19, 2018, we are confident that over the past three years, manufacturers have taken appropriate steps to reformulate products if and as necessary," an FDA spokesperson told Newsweek.

While fewer and fewer foods now contain trans fats, some may still have a small amount. Trans fats still hide in some foods that millions of people eat every day, like coffee creamer, baking products like margarine and shortening, pre-made frosting, some potato chips, pre-made dough and fried food.