Friday, February 01, 2008

Trans fat alert

You're up on the health dangers of trans fats, as we all are now, so when you go to the grocery store, you know to steer clear of products that contain that scary stuff. You give yourself bonus points, even, for spotting products labeled "trans fat free."

But maybe, like me, you didn't know that, by law, a product can still contain trans fat even if it says it doesn't. Yep. I learned by trial and error:

I normally shop at green markets, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe's stores, so trans fat is usually not an issue (these stores do not carry products that contain TFs). But, the other day I was busy and was trying to combine my shopping in one area of the city -- so I went to a different store.

I needed tortillas, preferably organic. No luck there. So, I decided it wouldn't kill me to buy non-organic tortillas, as long as I could find a pack that was free of TFs. With no time to read a long ingredient label with a fussy boy in my arms, I grabbed a pack of "Mission" tortilla's labeled "0 grams trans fat."

Then, a few hours later, at home, I read the ingredient label. I was horrified to find the words "partially hydrogenated" right there in black ink (see below for proof) -- on my tortillas. Friends, as you know if ya see "partially hydrogenated" it's code for TRANS FATS.

Nina Planck has a great article about this very topic in the February issue of Bon Appetit. In short, if a food product contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, the manufacturer isn't required to declare it. And not only that, but they can call it "trans fat free."

Can you believe that?

So, say you have three quesadillas. You'll eat about 1.5 grams of trans fat, which is about a teaspoon and a half of trans goodness (fat that researchers say goes straight to the belly, I might add).

Appetizing, eh?

Morals of the story:

*Read ingredient labels, even if the baby is fussy.
*Maybe drive across town to a store that sells quality products.
*Beware of claims on food products.
*Make your own tortillas (they're really good).


k/ said...

Same deal with MSG. Companies call it many other things to get around having MSG on the label. As a migraine sufferer, the company's lies can debilitate me. And even many organic products contain autolyzed yeast aka MSG...Just got a new book called Buying Organic and A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives is great, too.

Suasoria said...

I have a horrible time finding good tortillas at mainstream grocery stores. A store will have 30 different kinds of flour tortillas, and not a single one without hydrogenated oil.