For Most Products, “0 g Trans Fat” Really Means Zero
When the US Food and Drug Administration began requiring trans fat amounts to be listed on Nutrition Facts labels in 2006, it left what some regard as a loophole: Products containing trans fat with less than 0.5 grams per serving could nonetheless be labeled “0 g trans fat.” Crunching the numbers on a database of 130,000 branded and private-label food products, however, revealed that concerns about heart-unhealthy trans fat lurking under that “0 grams” label might be overblown. Food Essentials, a St. Louis-based food labeling firm, checked products on store shelves between September 2012 and March 2014 for partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, the primary food source of trans fats. Of 74,249 products that claimed zero trans fat, only 4,610—6.2%—actually contained small amounts of partially hydrogenated oils. Product categories most likely to contain trans fat were cookies and biscuits, baking mixes, ice cream and frozen yogurt, and cakes and cupcakes. The findings are expected to play into the debate over the FDA’s pending proposal to effectively ban all trans fats.