Pharyngula

A victim of lies

A few weeks ago in Bio-chem, we learned about fatty acids. We learned that any partially hydrogenated fats/oils are trans fats. If it’s under .5 grams per serving, food companies are privileged to round that number down and boast their food as “Zero Trans Fats.”

This hit home to me this morning. I was eating a General Mills cereal. While the box claimed to have zero trans fat, the ingredients list revealed a dirty secret: partially hydrogenated coconut oil. Nice move GM.

Dear FDA, grow a spine.

Comments

  1. #1 David Marjanovi?
    October 11, 2007

    In response to #12, isn’t it true that the trans fats found in nature, vaccenic acid, are metabolized into linoleic acid, which has health benefits?

    Obviously, that depends on the length of the trans acid in question. Is vaccenic acid the same length as linoleic acid, and is it the only trans acid that occurs in milk?

    Buy whole cereal grains in bulk. Cook in an automatic rice cooker. Store in the fridge in breakfast sized containers. Your bowel will thank you, but you will do a lot of chewing.

    Nonsense. You’ll get constipation, and the lectins in the grains will prevent you from taking up vitamins and stuff. Grains are not fruit. They are not supposed to be eaten, respectively, leave them to the specialized granivores.

  2. #2 srkring
    March 2, 2010

    I am a little late to the discussion, but I’m just catching up on all the FDA news lately. Particularly interested in this one in light of the recent “trans fat bans” that are going on around the country. Our FDA in the U.S. is a pretty short-sighted agency. They do as much harm as good at times.

    I understand the argument that often there are trace amounts and how picky are we going to get, but saying that up to 0.5 g can be listed as 0 when there are hardly restrictions on what constitutes a “serving size” for most things. I cannot list how many times I have picked up a package and looked at the nutritional information and initially thought to myself, “Oh! This meal only has 300 calories and 7g of fat….” Followed by an immediate, “Damn it!” when I realize the tiny little package really contains 2 or 4 servings, when it is clearly something that a normal person would easily eat in one sitting. Then apply that to snacks. I’m looking at a box of crackers right now where the serving size is 5 crackers (14g). How many people actually eat 5 crackers and then walk away from the box? Why have they picked that serving size? I’m guessing that at 14g, they can list their trans fat (since they do have ‘partially hydrogenated’ oil as an ingredient, which yes kids, does yield trans fat) which is probably ~.49g as 0g. So you eat 10 crackers, and you’re at ~1g, and good god, heaven forbid you eat a whopping 20 of these tiny crackers and you’d better not drink any milk or eat any animal products that day or you’ve FAR outdone your limit.

    The problem here isn’t about whether or not it can be measured. It most certainly can. And are trace amounts okay? Of course they are. But we aren’t really talking about things with “trace” amounts when a serving size is so small. You’re talking about things that are 3-5% trans fat in composition. That’s not “trace”, and servings add up quickly. Have you ever noticed that something you’ve eaten has a serving size of 2 tablespoons and you just ate a cup of it? There are no standards on what constitutes a serving size, no percentage restrictions on “trans fat”.

    And awesomely foods with long shelf lives are not just found in areas where people have graduate degrees and health insurance (to visit their nutritionist) and nice health clubs with fancy personal trainers… they also amazingly sell these foods in areas where people don’t have access to fresh produce, good health care, and lots of great schools. So yes, I agree with the original poster that there should be some responsibility placed on the food labels as well as on the government agency that fails to regulate them adequately.