Artificial trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oils, are found in many popular processed foods, like baked goods and stick margarines. These ingredients have been used in foods since the 1950’s to increase the shelf-life and flavor stability of processed foods (i.e. they provide the flavor and gooiness to those packaged muffins at the convenience store). Over the last decade, various studies have consistently linked trans fat consumption to heart disease. A 2002 report by the Institute of Medicine found a direct correlation between intake of trans fat intake and increased levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This led to the food industry removing about 80% of trans fats from the food supply since 2003. FDA began to require that levels of trans fat be labeled on the Nutrition Facts Panel (i.e. the food label) in 2006. The latest FDA move, effectively a ban, follows a long accumulation of scientific evidence that consistently shows that there is no safe level of trans fat.
However, to protect your heart health, you’ll need to double check food labels until mid-2018. FDA gave the food industry three years to reformulate products to be free of trans fat or to petition for specific, limited uses, such as in “sprinkles” atop ice cream, for which there is no other alternative.
Until June 2018, even if a food claims on its packaging to have “0 grams trans fat,” it’s a good idea to look at the ingredients list on the label. Under current regulations, companies can make that claim if the food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But if “partially hydrogenated oil” is listed among the ingredients, the product will contain a small amount of trans fat.
Listed below are some examples of foods that the FDA has identified as likely to containing trans fat:
- crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
- snack foods (such as some microwave popcorn)
- stick margarines
- coffee creamers
- refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
- ready-to-use frostings
For additional information on fats visit the USDA National Agriculture Library’s Food and Nutrition Information Center (click here).