Skip to content

Trans fat still lurks in packaged foods

A few years back, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declared that trans fats were just plain unhealthy and started pressuring food manufacturers to dump ingredients that contained them.

Trans fats, as you probably recall, are found in small amounts in meat and dairy, but we eat them mostly in ingredients made from artificially-solidified plant fats, such as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trans fats are bad for our heart health - they make "bad" LDL cholesterol levels rise and "good" HDL cholesterol levels drop.

The FDA's anti-trans fat campaign - which included a new requirement that food labels specify the trans fat content of foods - did induce many manufacturers to eliminate the offending ingredients. Several large restaurant chains followed suit, and some jurisdictions outlawed trans fats completely. (New York City's ban, which took effect in 2007, produced lots of news stories about doughnuts.)

All this change could delude you into thinking that trans fats are gone from our food. Not so, says a recent press release from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI):

A sampling of foods containing three or more grams per serving includes Pillsbury’s Buttermilk Biscuits (General Mills), Pepperidge Farm’s Luscious 3-Layer Lemon Flavor Cake (Campbell Soup Co.), Utz’s Cheese Flavored Puff’n Corn, Jimmy Dean’s Sausage, Egg & Cheese Croissant Sandwich (Sara Lee Corp.), Celeste’s Original Pizza (Pinnacle Foods Group), and dozens more.

Mrs. Budd’s Original Recipe Chicken Pot Pie, a regional brand, has more partially hydrogenated oil than carrots or peas, but consumers would have no way of knowing how many of its 17 grams of fat per serving are from trans fat: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which regulates food with meat or poultry, hasn’t adopted the FDA’s trans fat labeling rule. (The company told CSPI that the pot pie contains 5 grams of trans fat.)

The press release concludes:

CSPI estimates that companies have eliminated well over half of the partially hydrogenated oil in the food supply. But the remaining trans fat continues to promote heart disease, likely causing thousands of unnecessary premature deaths annually.

Photo by arnold | inuyaki's

Popular posts