In the past decade, Americans have cut their consumption of “partially hydrogenated” solid fats – also known as trans fats – by 85 percent, thanks to government-mandated labeling, consumers’ preference for more healthful products and changes by food producers.

But the 15 percent that remains is far too much. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration is right to make good on its promise to ban added trans fats entirely. It’s a move that could save thousands of lives.

Trans fats are inexpensive, easy to work with and give baked goods an appealing flaky texture. This is why you still find them in microwave popcorn, cake mixes, sprinkles and foods at some chain restaurants.

But trans fats boost LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol. The Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences have found there’s no safe level of consumption. The restrictions the FDA proposed Monday could eventually prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year, the agency estimates.

The new regime will forbid foodmakers from adding any artificially hydrogenated oils. (Companies will have three years to phase them out.) And food producers will be able to petition the FDA for individual exceptions.

Consumers’ cardiovascular health will be better protected – and judging from the experience of companies from McDonald’s to Quaker Oats that have already stopped using trans fats, consumers probably won’t even notice.

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