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Misleading trans-fat labels are a real problem

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If you are trying to eat healthy, you may be angered to learn that you are being deceived by food manufacturers.

Hundreds of packaged foods contain trans fat, despite Nutrition Facts labels reading "0 g trans fat."

This unfortunate misrepresentation was revealed in a new study by researchers at New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The team examined 4,340 bestselling packaged foods in the U.S. and found that nine percent had partially hydrogenated oil. Of that group of almost 400 foods, 84 percent had some trans fats, from trace amounts to up to 0.5 grams per serving.

The Food and Drug Administration currently allows companies to claim to have zero grams of certain ingredients in the foods they make as long as the amount is half a gram or less per serving.

Trans fat can keep longer than saturated fats and foods made with it tend to last longer before becoming spoiled. Unfortunately it is also harder for the body to breakdown. Trans fat has been found to contribute to health issues such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. In 2006, the trans fat entry listing was added to the Nutrition Facts label. Last year, the FDA released a notice that it no longer considers trans fat "generally recognized as safe." This may lead to an outright ban of products with artificial trans fat.

The build-up of plaque inside a person's arteries can be caused by trans fat. According to the FDA website, "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."

The results of the studyon trans fat were published in the CDC's journal Preventing Chronic Disease, in an article called "Prevalence of Partially Hydrogenated Oils in US Packaged Foods, 2012." It is authored by Jenifer Clapp, MPA; Christine J. Curtis, MBA; Ann E. Middleton, MPH and Gail P. Goldstein, MPH.

There are places in the U.S. where trans fat has been banned from restaurants, such as that state of California and New York City. Many fast food restaurant chains have already replaced the trans fat oils they were using with healthier alternatives.

Photo: Quinn Dombrowski  

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