On the FoodFacts Facebook page this week, we’ve looked at products containing Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Partially Hydrogenated Canola Oil, There are at least a few more “Partially Hydrogenated” oil substances to delve into in terms of food ingredients. But as we looked more closely at the subject, we realized that this is a very important topic for this blog.

We feel very strongly about education and even though trans fat is something you always hear about, we think, perhaps, we all need to be reminded of exactly how it is, or isn’t, being regulated. And that all depends on how you look at it.

First let’s make this point. Any oil listed as a food ingredient that begins with the phrase “partially hydrogenated” signifies the presence of trans fat in the food product it’s included in. It is impossible for the use of any partially hydrogenated oil not to result in a certain amount of trans fat. It doesn’t matter what type of oil is undergoing the process … vegetable, canola, sunflower, cottonseed – it all results in the same thing.

So here’s a random (and partial) ingredient list:
Citric Acid, Glycerol, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Potassium Sorbate, Flavoring Natural, Wheat Flour, Wheat Whole, BHT, Caramel Color, Corn Syrup, Barley Malted Syrup, Corn Syrup Malted, Niacinamide (Vitamin aB), Canola Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Sunflower Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Iron Reduced,  Salt, Vitamin A (Retinol Palmitate), Vitamin B6, Whey, Zinc Oxide, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Folic Acid (Vitamin aB), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D

And here’s that ingredient list’s corresponding nutrition label:
You’ll note that the Trans Fat line reads 0 grams.

It’s within FDA requirements. The product hasn’t lied, they haven’t made a mistake and they haven’t been mislabeled. But the product still contains trans fat – even though it says it doesn’t.

According to the FDA, any product whose trans fat level falls below .5 grams per serving can list itself as having NO trans fat. Maybe that doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal, but it really can be and it’s really something we should all pay attention to.

There is no RDA for trans fat in the United States. In fact, all we’ve heard is that we should consume as little trans fat per day as possible. It’s just downright bad for us … trans fats add to weight gain and obesity problems, they help clog arteries, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. There’s even research that points to the contribution of trans fats to the risk of diabetes.

Let’s assume that you have one serving of 5 different food products marked 0 g. trans fat per day. Let’s also assume that each of those servings actually contains .45 g of trans fat. You just consumed 2.25 g of a fat that has no determined level of safety!

The labeling of trans fat is regulated … sort of. Anything over .5 g per serving has to be noted on the nutrition label and anything below that counts as a 0.

Since it’s only a “sort of” regulation, it leads us to determine that until things change, we need to regulate ourselves. Any additional trans fat is unhealthy.

FoodFacts.com wants to keep you focused on your healthy lifestyle. Be a savvy consumer and be able to identify the myriad of products that contain trans fat. Keep reading, but make sure you’re reading more than nutrition labels. You need to read ingredient lists and keep your attention on the words “Partially Hydrogenated”. That’s the key to determining whether or not the product you’re considering actually contains trans fat.