Is ‘zero trans fats’ just a rounded number?

Posted by
February 23, 2012

You see it listed under the “Nutrition Facts” on processed foods all the time – Trans Fat 0g.  Which means the product involved contains zero artery-clogging trans fats, right?

Well, not necessarily.

According to the way the Food and Drug Administration rules are now written, a product may actually be a source of  trans fat and still be able to claim it has none – as long as the amount is under 0.5 grams per serving. Think of it as a loophole for trans fats to sneak into places which are supposedly free of them.

So let’s say that you eat three servings of different foods that contain only 0.4 grams of trans fats.  You would actually have consumed well over a gram, even though you might think you’ve eaten none (and be congratulating yourself for how heart-health-conscience you are).

Of course, there is a much more reliable way of ensuring that you keep this cumulative artery-and-heart hazard out of your diet. Simply do what we always advise, and check the actual ingredients.  If they list any kind of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, bingo! – there’s trans fat in the product, despite any “Nutrition Facts” claim to the contrary.

Take Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies, a kid breakfast favorite.  There’s the reassuring “Trans Fat 0g” on the side of the box. But look further down, and under ingredients, you’ll see “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, soybean and/or cottonseed)” And that’s what tells you it’s in there after all.

Another example:  Pepperidge Farm Milano Double Chocolate “distinctive cookies.”  A premium brand, right? – and one that we might tend to think is better than others, especially when we see Trans Fat 0g inside its Nutrition Facts panel. But wait – at the bottom, we see that among the things it’s made from are “vegetable oils (palm and/or interesterified and hydrogenated soybean and/or hydrogenated cottonseed).”

Interesterification is a mixture of fully hydrogenated oils and partially hydrogenated oils that was found in early studies to actually depress levels of the “good cholesterol” HDL even more than trans fats, as well as raising blood glucose levels and depressing those of insulin, both of which raise the likelihood of diabetes.

The bottom line is: you need to read the bottom line, or lines, and not just the ones on top.  Because they’re the ones that tell you what’s really in what you’re planning on consuming — trans fat-wise, and in other ways as well.

HFCS – getting the boot in more and more products and places

It seems everywhere you look these days, more and more companies are kicking high fructose corn syrup out of  their products and replacing the test-tube sweetener with real sugar.

The list of HFCS-free products now includes Wegmans Food Markets store brand items, which according to a blog posted last week by the New York-based company, are being made “better” by virtue of increased whole grains, the removal of partially hydrogenated fats and, of course, the elimination of high fructose corn syrup.

Also giving the boot to HFCS are restaurants such as the one in Seattle’s famous Fairmont Hotel, where executive chef Gavin Stephenson said he removed all items that contain HFCS from his kitchen.

Chef Stephenson said that once the trans fats were removed, the kitchen staff decided to “get rid of other stuff that’s not good for you” in the approximately 400,000 meals served each year at the Fairmont.

And in a real ‘take that’ to the  Corn Refiners Association (CRA), with all its media buys to convince us that HFCS is “natural” and “just like sugar,” a recent article in the trade pub Food Products Design, “ finds HFCS on the list of food trends “that are no longer cool” for 2012, along with “nameless, faceless manufactured food.”  On the other hand, “food with sugar”  made the “Hot”  list along with “ancient grains.”

What’s in your kitchen?

If you’re one of the scores of folks who have decided to banish HFCS from your kitchen, be sure to weigh in and give your opinion to the FDA about the CRA petition to get the name of this chemical concoction changed to corn sugar” by clicking here. Every voice counts, so make sure to tell the agency what you think of this attempt by Big Corn to scam consumers.