Why You Can’t Always Trust Food Labels

Most people are now aware of the health risks associated with consuming trans fats. If a product’s label indicates it has “0 grams trans fats,” you should be in the clear, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, just because the label reads zero doesn’t necessarily mean the the food is free of trans fats.

A product may claim that it is free of trans fats, but you also need to check the ingredients list before putting it in your shopping cart. Partially hydrogenated oils are a source of trans fat, and some products that list partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients panel are still allowed to claim “0 grams trans fat” on the package. That’s because the FDA allows companies to “round down” and list 0 grams trans fat as long as a product contains less than 0.5 gram trans fat per serving. However, if a product contains partially hydrogenated oils and you eat several servings, that could add up to 1 or 2 grams of trans fat – and we know that any amount of trans fats in your diet is detrimental to heart health.

To be a smart consumer, always check the ingredients list to ensure that your favorite packaged products do not contain any “partially hydrogenated oils” – even if they list 0 grams under the trans fat line in the Nutrition Facts Panel. Although a trace amount of partially hydrogenated oils here and there certainly isn’t life-threatening, there are now so many brands of packaged products that are completely free of hydrogenated oils that there’s no reason to compromise. And now that the Food and Drug Administration has proposed removing partially hydrogenated oils from the “generally recognized as safe” list, there is a strong possibility that trans fat will be eliminated from the packaged food supply altogether – that’s music to my ears!


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