After years of reading scary warnings about our fat intake, many of us prefer not to eat any trans fats in processed foods, but we certainly don’t want to exceed the recommended daily limit of 1.11 grams. Unfortunately, as Case Western Reserve University medical student Eric Brandt pointed out in the American Journal of Health Promotion, current FDA labeling prevents the consumer from identifying the true amount of trans fats in many food products.
Here’s the problem: current law requires listing fat content of greater than five grams per serving in one-gram increments; less than five grams in .5 increments; and lower than .5 grams as containing zero grams of fat. This means that if a product has .49 grams of trans fats per serving, the label can list the trans fat content as zero. So if we feast on a bag of chips or a box of cookies, we may unknowingly ingest large amounts of this unhealthy fat, putting ourselves at risk for coronary artery disease, diabetes, and sudden cardiac death. To put this in perspective, research shows that increasing daily trans fat consumption from 2 grams to 4.67 grams will increase our risk of cardiovascular disease by a whopping 30 percent.
The solution is obvious. The FDA needs to require accurate labeling of the amount of trans fats, no matter how small. In the meantime, our best bet is to limit our intake of processed foods... but we knew that already.