Fact or Myth: Does a Zero Trans Fat Label Really Mean Trans Fat Free?

This is a MYTH.

trans fatDon’t be deceived by the trans fat free label. A food product that claims to have ZERO grams of trans fat can contain up to 0.5 grams per serving. How do food manufacturers get away with such deception? FDA guidelines, of course, which allow 0.5 grams or less of trans fat to qualify as zero. Might not seem too health compromising, but according to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology,

“If consumers eat multiple servings of a food product(s) they believe to contain zero grams of trans-fat, the total amount of trans-fat they consume in a day will quickly add up.”

Take, for instance, microwave popcorn, which comes with a zero trans fat label. Three cups of popcorn (the average amount consumed in one sitting) actually delivers 1.5 grams of trans fat—and you better believe that’s enough to exacerbate LDL cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Trans Fat Trending Down

Thankfully, the trans fat trend is on the decline. Food Essentials, a company designed to analyze large amounts of food label data, ran 130,000 branded and private label products in US stores between September 2012 and March 2014, and found that 6.2% (4,610 out of 74,249) that carried a trans fat free label actually contained trans fats.

The biggest offenders were baked goods:

  • Cookies
  • Biscuits
  • Cake, cookie, and cupcake mixes
  • Ice cream
  • Frozen yogurt

It seems there might be something to the American Bakers Association’s claim that making baked products 100% free of trans fats is too “technically challenging.”

According to data, partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the largest source of trans fat.

How to Avoid the Trans

To make sure you aren’t eating trans fat, stop looking at the label and start looking at the ingredients…all of them! If you see “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” oils, then the product contains trans fat, even if the label states otherwise! Step away from the package…and grab a product that is truly trans fat free.