Trans-Fatty Acids & Labels

US Food Labels Not Honest About Trans-Fatty Acids

The crusading Center for Science in the Public Interest is publicising the fact that American food labels, while displaying (as required) the saturated fat content of processed foods, do not include trans-fatty acids in that total. They quote a chicken pie, which correctly recorded 8g of saturated fat per serve, but neglected to mention there was also 6.5g of trans-fatty acids. Commercial baked products in the US commonly utilise hardened margarines, which are rich in trans-fatty acids.

A survey of similar pastry-type products showed that was the usual situation. The labels are not mentioning trans-fatty acids because the manufacturers are not yet required to include them. In other countries, trans-fatty acids must be counted as saturates. The US Food and Drugs Administration may proceed to require labelling of trans-fatty acid levels, but as there is no daily limit set as yet, there is no easy way to determine the significance of any such numbers. Inclusion of such fats in the total saturates seems a most practical solution. Such labelling of course is also likely to stimulate manufacturers to change their ingredients to avoid high trans-fatty acid content. Needless to say, the manufacturers’ associations are objecting to including trans-fatty acids because of the lack of evidence on which to base a daily maximum.

There is certainly a practical problem for the manufacturers and consumers. Altering the fatty acid composition of fats used in baking will have a marked effect on the texture, mouth feel and appearance of the pastry – and as with using margarine instead of butter, this may make the product less appealing.

Source: Center for Science in the Public Interest

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