A handful of other countries have banned them, including Switzerland and Denmark. Other countries have enacted strict labeling laws.
Dr. Leon Bruner, chief scientist at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement that his group estimates that food manufacturers have voluntarily lowered the amount of trans fats in food products by 73 percent.
The group, which represents the country's largest food companies, did not speculate on a reasonable timeline or speak to how difficult a ban might be for some manufacturers. Bruner said in a statement that "consumers can be confident that their food is safe, and we look forward to working with the FDA to better understand their concerns and how our industry can better serve consumers."
Said FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg: "While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern."
Agency officials say they have been working on trans fat issues for around 15 years and have been collecting data to justify a possible phase-out since just after President Barack Obama came into office in 2009.
The advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest first petitioned FDA to ban trans fats nine years ago. The group's director, Michael Jacobson, says the prohibition is "one of the most important lifesaving actions the FDA could take."
"Six months or a year should be more than enough time, especially considering that companies have had a decade to figure out what to do," Jacobson said.