FDA moves against trans fats

20 Nov 2013


I was delighted to hear that the Food and Drug Administration in the US decided earlier this month to limit the use of partially hydrogenated oils, also known as trans fats.  Trans fat is a major cause of heart disease and other ailments and it is difficult to understand why it was not outlawed a long time ago.  Many food manufacturers have already stopped using it although the problem is that in some products it is difficult to find a replacement.

In some cases the presence of trans fats is obvious such as in frozen chips, pies and cakes yet in others it is not something that instantly springs to mind.  The best case I can think of is in microwave ready popcorn.  Popcorn is a relatively healthy alternative snack, I eat quite a lot of it but I buy it raw and make it myself.  Popcorn for the microwave sounds much easier for most people and it saves on washing up.  However the problem is that a substitute that works in microwavable popcorn is difficult to come by and a reduction in trans fats will hit manufacturers.

Many frozen meals also contain a great deal of trans fat.  Rather than being convenience foods they are likely to be inconvenient in the long run.  Ice cream is a case in point although in this case the trans fat can be substituted for other types of fat.  This sounds as though a marketing ploy can be used via labelling for ‘healthy’ ice cream.  Of course it will only be comparitively more healthy than eating one with trans fat in it!

Margarine is the best example of hydrogenated vegetable fat.  In the 1970s we were told not to eat butter so we stopped buying it.  Then someone found out that we were not supposed to eat margarine either so we sought out spreads, olive oil and the like.  Now butter is back in fashion for although it is high in cholesterol, it has a chemical formula which is easily absorbed by the body.  Not so, margarine.  The chemical formula is much more complex and the body has problems digesting it and furthermore the trans fat level is very high.  Whereas it will still appear in recipes, the argument for using margarine is only because of its perceived health advantages.  I think everyone agrees butter tastes so much better.  The good news is that it is also better for your health.  One needs to give margarine a very wide berth.

Hopefully the FDA rules will soon be coming to Europe too.  We can either pay the farmer or pay the doctor.  Paying food companies to ruin our health is not a sensible option.


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