The World Health Organization is calling for governments and food makers to cut industrial trans fats in a move targeted at saving lives and improving health.

The organization on Monday said that trans fats often present in junk food, baked goods and fried items are contributing to the deaths of more than 500,000 people annually who have cardiovascular disease.

The International Food & Beverage Alliance, which represents major food companies such as General Mills, Kellogg's, Mars and McDonald's, backed the plan.

Although the WHO does not have the power to enact a global ban, its influence could pave the way for a crackdown on manufactured trans fats.

The group said "healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food," such as healthier fats and oils.

Legislation or regulatory actions would help, the group said. It also called for an education campaign and enforcement procedures.

In the U.S., New York City axed industrially-produced trans fats about a decade ago.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who now serves as WHO's global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases, credited the ban with reducing heart attacks.

From a practical perspective, the push to ban trans fats will be a key pillar of the WHO's new strategic plan for 2019 through 2023.

Trans fats boost levels of bad LDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease by 21%.

The IFBA estimated that nearly 99% of its member companies' food is already without trans fats.