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November 7th, 2013
05:51 PM ET

Say goodbye to trans fats?

(CNN) – The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday took a first step toward potentially eliminating most trans fat from the food supply, saying it has made a preliminary determination that a major source of trans fats - partially hydrogenated oils - is no longer "generally recognized as safe."

Chef Mike Isabella, of Graffiato and Kapnos restaurants in Washington, D.C., and a Top Chef alumni, said he does not use trans fats in any of his restaurants.

"Even if we wanted to preserve stuff, we do more of a classic style, preserving, pickling, smoking, curing," said Isabella. "I'm definitely not planning on ever using it."

But Isabella is a chef of fancy restaurants, where food is served immediately. Trans fats help preserve food, often significantly prolonging shelf life.

"Sugar is also a natural preservative, butter is a fat, a natural preservative. A lot of that stuff we're using in the foods is natural preservatives that will keep the products longer," said Isabella. "If you know how to work with it and use it, you don't need to use something synthetic that's not really even food."

When something is deemed unsafe, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ban it, especially given children may be choosing certain foods when parents aren't around. There is also an obesity epidemic in the United States.

But Josh Barro, politics editor of Business Insider, said the government should not be telling people what they can and cannot eat.

"Eating 4,500 calories a day isn't safe, and smoking and drinking too much aren't safe," said Barro. "The government generally takes the right approach to those sorts of things, which is that we do things to discourage people from smoking or drinking too much, but we say if adults want to make these informed decisions they're allowed to."

Since 2006, the FDA has required that food labels include artificial trans fat content.

"That's been working. Consumption is down about 80% over that period. So consumers have been making informed, healthier choices," said Barro.

Foods that typically contain high amounts of trans fats are cheap, packaged, and often highly convenient.

"It's really saving you some time, a couple of pennies here and there, but it's not like something major where this (packaged food) tastes so much better than what you can make at home," said Isabella. "Trans fat doesn't make things taste better."

For more of our interview with Mike Isabella and Josh Barro, check out the video above.

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