FDA Mandates Trans Fat Labeling
Starting in 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all food and beverage makers to list the trans fat content of packaged foods on the Nutrition Facts panel. Companies have to list any measurable amount of trans fat (0.5 grams or more per serving) in a separate line in the “Total Fat” section of the panel, directly beneath the line for “Saturated Fat.”
This means if a food package states “0 gram of trans fats,” it might still have some trans fats as long as the amount per serving is less than 0.5 gram. Check the ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated oil.” If partially hydrogenated oil is listed, the product includes trans fats. And if you eat more than one serving of that product, the amount of trans fats you consume could add up quickly and exceed the recommended limits.
The FDA regulation applies only to packaged foods, not foods served in restaurants, grocery stores or bakeries.
Associates Recommends Americans Limit Consumption of Saturated Fats and Trans Fats
In 2006, the American Heart Association issued its latest Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. They recommend that you limit the amount of saturated fats to less than 5-6 percent of your total daily calories, trans fats to less than 1 percent of total daily calories, and cholesterol to less than 300 milligrams per day.
Food Manufacturers Market “Trans Fat-Free” Foods
In recent years, many food manufacturers have undertaken extensive reformulation efforts to dramatically reduce the amounts of trans fats in their foods. As a result, many food packages now show zero trans fat on their labels and are marketed as being “trans fat-free.”
But foods labeled trans fat-free aren’t necessarily healthy. Check the food label to make sure these trans fat-free foods aren’t high in saturated fats. Also, foods high in calories and/or low in nutritional values (not containing many beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins and minerals) are probably still this way after reformulation, and so should be eaten only in small amounts.
Restaurants Go “Trans Fat-Free” in Their Deep Fryers
Many major national fast-food chains and casual-dining restaurant chains have announced that they will no longer use trans fats to fry or deep-fry foods. Many smaller local and regional restaurant chains have made similar announcements. This is a positive step but it doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited fried foods. Most fried foods contain lots of calories, regardless of the frying oil used. Also, if trans fats are replaced with saturated fats, the calories remain high – and keep in mind that saturated fat raises your bad cholesterol.
Cities and Counties Phase out Trans Fats in Restaurants
One of the most important developments has been the New York City Board of Health’s decision to phase out trans fats in city restaurants. The board’s regulation requires restaurants to limit the amount of trans fats in oils, shortenings and margarines used for frying or in spreads. Effectiive July 2007, restaurants must use less than 0.5 gram per serving. The regulation also requires that, effective July 2008, restaurants limit the amount of trans fats to less than 0.5 gram per serving in all food items not sold in the original manufacturer’s packages. Since then, legislative and regulatory efforts to restrict trans fats have been proposed and adopted in other major cities and counties. Effective January 2010, California phased out trans fats in restaurants statewide.