The FDA and trans fat on
In 1999, the Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that all
food products sold after January of 2006 must
have their trans fat content disclosed on the
label. Prior to that date, food products do not
have to indicate the amount of trans fatty acid
So, what does the change in labeling mean to the
average consumer? If you are worried about trans
fat in your diet, the only way to tell if a food
product contains it is to look at the ingredient
list. In general, if a food contains partially
hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially
hydrogenated vegetable shortening or
hydrogenated vegetable oil, it contains trans
fat. On an ingredients list, the foods are
listed from largest amounts to smallest. So, the
closer the ingredients are to the top of the
list, the more of that ingredient the food uses.
However, there is no way to see the exact number
of grams of trans fat that a food contains.
The new ruling changes this situation. Starting
in 2006, all products sold in the United States
must have labels that list the number of trans
fat grams per serving. Since the labeling is
done by serving, it will still be possible for a
product to contain trans fats (in the forms of
fully or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or
shortening) and be labeled as having zero grams
of trans fat. This is because any foods with
less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving may
legally place 0 grams of trans fat on the label.
So, some things that have small amounts of trans
fatty acids will appear to be trans fat free.
This is important to note for anyone trying to
completely eliminate trans fat; you will want to
check the number of trans fat grams listed on
the label, but you should still check the
ingredient list for some of the tell-tale items
like partially hydrogenated shortening or
partially hydrogenated oil.
Despite this loophole, the labeling rule is
definitely a step in the right direction and
will help consumers make better choices about
the foods they eat and the fats they contain.
to read the new labels for trans fat