Beat the trans-fat labeling flap
By Hal Walter
Last year's release of a National Academy of Sciences study concluding there is no safe level of consumption for trans fats sparked the Food and Drug Administration to hasten new labeling requirements for products that contain these substances. New labels listing the amount of trans fats in products could appear as early as 2004.
However, since the NAS found no safe limit, and since trans fats play no necessary role in human nutrition, it presents a unique labeling problem in stating a "Daily Value" which is standard for "Nutritional Facts." To get around this glitch, the FDA has instead proposed an asterisk with footnote at the bottom of the labels stating: "Intake of trans fat should be as low as possible."
No kidding. While trans fat contained in hydrogenated oil has long been associated with adverse effects on cholesterol ratios that could lead to heart disease, it's also been linked to obesity, diabetes and cancer. Dietary trans fats are also believed to displace omega-3 fats in the brain, contributing to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Maybe that information should be on labels instead.
Manufacturers use hydrogenated oils in their products because they increase shelf life and also are inexpensive. It's clear these manufacturers are more interested in the bottom line than your health. According to the Wall Street Journal, lobbyists for some processed food giants are even now fighting the FDA's proposed footnote, arguing it constitutes nutritional counseling rather than straight facts about what is in the product.
On the other hand, some health-care professionals argue that trans fat consumption may be as serious a risk factor for disease as smoking, and we're all familiar with the warnings printed on cigarette labels.
While the legal label battle rages, you can take control of your health right now using the current information. Trans fats are found in hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oil which are already required to be listed as ingredients, and the NAS had made it clear there is no safe level of consumption.
Simply read labels and don't buy products that contain these substances.