In November 2013 the US FDA started looking further into trans fat limits and a group of lawyers are suing the food industry for compensation for health care costs due to disease from trans fat. Why is there such a fuss about trans fats again? Would it have anything to do with the increasing obesity rates in North America and diseases, such as heart, kidney and cancer resulting from this additive which is used in so much processed food.
What foods have Trans Fats
Trans fat can be found in many of the same foods as saturated fat. Here’s the trans fat list from the FDA website which can include:
- Crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods
- Snack foods (such as microwave popcorn)
- Frozen pizza
- Fast food
- Vegetable shortenings and stick margarines
- Coffee creamer
- Refrigerated dough products (such as biscuits and cinnamon rolls)
- Ready-to-use frostings
Solidified vegetable oils are used in our food to make the food taste better and last much longer. Recent research shows that trans fats are just not good for you and cause diseases such as high cholesterol, strokes, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. There is a limit set in the USA of 20 grams of trans fat per day but as trans fats also occur naturally it is suggested consumers avoid them altogether. But the bottom line is the USA FDA has listed hydrogenated oils as no longer safe on their GRAS list “Generally Recognized As Safe”
Food Labels & Labelling
Proposed labelling change by the US FDA :
“Food Labeling: Trans Fatty Acids in Nutrition Labeling, Nutrient Content Claims, and Health Claims” (the November 1999 proposal), in which we proposed that trans fat content be provided in nutrition labeling to help consumers determine how each food product contributes to their overall dietary intake of trans fat.
Here’s more! At the end of this article is a partial list of additional processed foods which may have trans fats in them. Even if your favourite food or snack is not listed it still may contain processed trans fats depending on the serving size. Always check under “Fat / Lipides” for “saturated” or “trans fats” when shopping. Watch what you are eating as contrary to advertising not all food is natural and good for you.
- If you have dietary restrictions or health issues and eat at fast food outlets ask for nutritional and additive listings. These are sometimes available but we have not been able to obtain (or found online) a list of additives, preservatives and other chemicals used in the processing of any company fast food
- When checking the shelves in the local store notice the trans fats in the nutritional lists on many foods are per serving size and if the amount is under a certain size it does not need to be included. This might explain one of the reasons why listed serving sizes are getting smaller
- Saturated fats raise blood cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease
- Always check processed food labels for hydrogenated oils, also a long list of ingredient chemicals should be suspect as as well as words like partially hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, palm oil.
How to avoid high consumption of trans fats in your diet
(from the FDA link above)
- Trans fat has no percent Daily Value (%DV), so when you look at the Nutrition Facts Label, use the amount of grams (g) as your guide
- Check the Ingredient List on the food package for partially hydrogenated oils. The Nutrition Facts Label can state zero grams of trans fat if the food product contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. Thus, if a product contains partially hydrogenated oils then it might contain small amounts of trans fat even if the label says zero grams of trans fat
- Choose foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol for a healthful diet. When comparing foods, choose the food with the lower % DV of saturated fat and cholesterol. As a quick rule of thumb: 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high
- Cook and bake with vegetable oils (liquid or spray) instead of solid fats, like solid shortenings, butter or lard. Choose oils that are higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (e.g., canola oil and olive oil), and avoid oils that are higher in saturated fats (e.g., coconut, palm and palm kernel oils)
- Switch from stick margarine to soft margarine (liquid, tub, or spray)
If it came from a plant eat it;
If it was made in a plant, don’t.
~ Michael Pollan “Food Rules”
- Try baking, steaming, grilling or broiling instead of frying
- Eat small quantities of foods that contain healthier fats, such as nuts (e.g., walnuts and almonds), seeds (e.g., sunflower and pumpkin), olives and avocados
- Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products and lean cuts of meat and skinless poultry
- Eat more seafood and choose it in place of some meat and poultry
- Get plenty of foods that are naturally low in fat, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables
- When eating out, remember to ask which fats are being used in the preparation of the food you’re ordering. You can also ask to have dressings and sauces served separately or not at all
I believe it is important that this information be easily accessible on food labels, and then the choice is up to the consumer if they wish to consume products known to cause diseases through obesity such as heart disease and diabetes. Is there a win-win situation and how did we ever get to this point? Somewhere along the line, someone has to pay – but loss of health is a very high price to pay no matter what the circumstances. This is a highly sensitive and extremely important subject – there is a lot to be said for good health.
Links and References
- US FDA on trans fats ruling changes November 7, 2013
- US Federal Register on FDA trans fat determination 11/08/2013
- What are trans fats and whats so bad about them from UK NHS
- Here is more trans fat information from the US Food and Drug Administration list
- Mayo Clinic on trans fats and heart health
- US FDA targets trans fats in processed food
- Well known corporate giants such as McDonalds, Burger King, Orville Reddenbacher, Crisco, Fleischmans, Pillsbury, Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Häagen-Dazs , Nestle use trans fats in their food processing
- Some information is from Health Magazine
- Overweight and obesity statistics USA
- USA 2013 obesity demographics by age, sex,income, race & location
- Lawsuit cannot prove intent re food industry
- Background information on litigation against McDonalds
However, there are still many processed foods made with partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in processed food. Trans fat has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, in which plaque builds up inside the arteries and may cause a heart attack.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a further reduction of trans fat in the food supply can prevent an additional 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year and up to 20,000 heart attacks each year.
US FDA Update 05/14/2014
Additional foods which may contain trans fats
- Potato chips or French fries – frozen food
- Fried and deep fried and battered food (again in fast food outlets and restaurants) including chicken and fish
- Pies and piecrusts from the grocery store
- Margarine sticks and vegetable shortening (eg Crisco)
- Premix cake mixes and creamy frostings
- Waffle and pancake mixes
- Flavoured non dairy creamers in your coffee
- Microwave popcorn – watch out for those flavours such as caramel with a whopping 5 grams of trans fat per serve
- Ground beef – find trans fat in many frozen burgers, beef sausages, beef hot dogs, and ground beef.
- Cookies, biscuits and sweet rolls – basically any artficial food that can sit on the shelf for a long time probably has transfats in it
- Breakfast burgers – you know fast food bun with bacon eggs cheese
- Frozen or creamy items such as whipped cream, soft ice cream
- Processed meat sticks and jerky
- Crackers such as saltines and wheat thins
- Frozen dinners – Frozen dinners and microwave meals are some of the biggest problems. Marie Callender’s country fried beef, grilled chicken bake, tortellini Romano, and fettuccini alfredo dinners,
- Instant asian noodles and microwave noodle soups
- Some canned chillis
- Snack pack pre-made puddings