Finally, Steps to Outlaw Trans-Fats

Remember about 15 years ago when we started hearing that margarine and other products containing trans fats were bad for us? Back then, it was pretty hard to know what had trans fats in it and what did not. Margarine got most of the bad press, although most packaged cookies, crackers, and snack foods also had trans fat in them.

Then, starting in 2006, food companies were required to list trans fat on food labels. Many companies realized that consumers would not want to buy products that were labeled as having trans fats, so they started changing their recipes to eliminate the badness. At least, many companies that produce food with labels made changes. Food in restaurants, cafeterias, bakeries, and so on, with no labels, were still a gamble. Many companies kept on using the trans fats because, after all, consumers had no way of knowing.

I always love statements like, “There is no safe level of consumption of trans fat”, coming from the head of the FDA. Well, if the stuff is not safe to eat, why is it still in our food supply years after we learned it was killing people? Good question! Regardless of the answer, we can only move forward from where we are. And apparently the FDA is now ready to take the first step forward. Lucky for us!

Another quote from the CNN article (cited below):  “So what should consumers do in the meantime? Choose products that have the lowest combined amount of saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat, the FDA said.”

I’m going to have to disagree with the FDA. I have no credentials, I’m not a doctor or researcher or expert of any kind, but this sounds silly to me. First, tell me that there is no safe level of consumption. Second, tell me to choose products with the lowest amount of badness including trans fat? Maybe we should choose products with NO trans fat whenever possible.

When a product has less than a half-gram of trans fat, the company is officially allowed to label it as zero trans fat. It could actually have anything up to 0.5 grams. When in doubt, look at the ingredient list. The stuff to avoid is usually listed as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil”, or shortening. No label? Watch out for fried foods, croutons, milkshakes, microwave popcorn, hot chocolate, and coffee creamer.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and publicly wonder how many years it will take before GMO’s are recognized as health hazards. Learning that the FDA is only now taking the very first step in the direction of banning trans fats is discouraging, to say the least. It remains our responsibility to stay educated about food ingredients and additives, preservatives, and methods of production in order to safeguard our health. Progress by industrial food companies moves along much faster than oversight by government agencies, and that is to our detriment.

Sources:

http://www.cnn.com/2013/11/07/health/fda-trans-fats/

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/transfats/

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