NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Kudos to the restaurant industry for cleaning up its act through the years in the use of trans fat.
Its work is not yet done, however, and in fact, eliminating trans fat is no longer just an option. On Tuesday, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that food companies must remove trans fats from their products by 2018.
According to FDA estimates, the change could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year. The agency originally announced its plans to act on trans fat in 2013, and has since addressed more than 6,000 public comments on the matter.
Many fast food companies have already borne the financial burden of ridding their high-caloric menus of of trans fat, which can add texture to food and prolong its shelf life.
A spokesperson for pizza giant Domino's (DPZ) said none of the chain's pizza products contained trans fat, although changes would be made to items such as icing for their cinnamon sticks. In 2007, Starbucks (SBUX) announced it removed all trans fat from its drinks and food. Within the packaged goods space, Cheerios maker General Mills (GIS) said more than 95% of its U.S. retail products are already labeled zero grams of fat. Points out a company spokeswoman, "work on the rest of the portfolio is already underway."
Others in the fast food business, though, admit the next several years will be spent tweaking recipes to survive in a trans-fat less world. "We are in the process of reformulating recipes for the very few ingredients which still contain trans fats, and believe that we will be in a position to comply with the determination prior to the deadline specified by the FDA," said a spokeswoman at Burger King (QSR). She added that virtually all of the ingredients used in Burger King's menu items have been free of artificial trans fats since November of 2008, including ingredients used in baked goods, partially-fried and pre-portioned menu items in the United States.
TheStreet reviewed the nutritional fact sheets of several top fast food chains in search of items containing large amounts of trans fat. Not making the list, but boasting five hamburgers with 2 grams of trans fat each, was "better burger" upstart Shake Shack (SHAK). Also just shy of making the list was McDonald's (MCD), whose new Angus 1/3 Pound Sirloin Burgers each contain 2 grams of trans fat.
Here are the worst offenders in ascending order.