Good Question: Labeling for Trans Fats and Partially Hydrogenated Oils?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We received this great question from Kitchn reader Meredith:

More and more packaged foods are claiming to be free of trans fat even though partially hydrogenated oils are still included on their ingredients lists. How is this possible?

Can you spot the paradox in the label above?!

What this comes down to, unfortunately, is labeling regulations. The FDA requires that products containing any amount of trans fat list that fat as one of the ingredients. This is very often listed as “partially hydrogenated oil,” as Meredith mentions.

At the same time, if that amount of trans fat is less than 0.5 grams, manufacturers are actually allowed to say that their product contains zero trans fats in the nutrition information. Manufacturers can also market their product as being trans fat-free.

The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of no more than 2 grams of trans fat per day. If we’re buying products that are claiming to contain zero trans fats but still list them as an ingredient, we could easily be consuming our recommended daily dose (or more!) of trans fats in just a few servings those products.

The key is to read the list of ingredients on any processed food you buy. Look for words like “partially hydrogenated” or “shortening.” These are foods that should be eaten in moderation and with an eye to your overall daily consumption of trans fats.

• For more information on trans fats, check out the American Heart Association website.
• The Mayo Clinic also gives a scientific perspective on the effect of trans fats on our health.

(Image: Flickr member Timothy Valentine licensed under Creative Commons)