Step Away — From The Trans Fat!

Mom poisons kidIt took a few decades, but the FDA has finally done it. The agency has decided to tackle the mega-industrial farming and manufacturing corporations who have been poisoning us all. I have railed for years about the harm done to the human body by the partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils in most of the foods we eat. These weird, unnatural chemicals have been killing us off for about a century, and the FDA has finally seen fit to ban them–well, almost ban them.

Here’s how tricky the food companies have been: When the FDA demanded labels on food packaging that list trans fats, you would think the consumer (you) would be safe. Not so much. The response of industry was incredible. Packages of chips and crackers and cookies and pies and breads and pancakes and buns and muffins quickly appeared sporting a label on the front of the package declaring loud and clear, “Zero Grams Trans Fat.”

That means trans-fat-free, right? Wrong!

Master PoisonerIncredibly, the foods proclaimed to have “Zero Grams Trans Fat,” actually could contain up to about a teaspoonful per serving. Yeah, you’re right if you’re thinking “That’s A LOT!!!” Cynical execs at major corporations were (and ARE) just using the loophole that 0.499 grams or less can be rounded down to 0, if you remember third-grade math class. Click the image at right for a close-up of a lying label.

The FDA and its advisors have obviously known about this cynical (I’d say criminal) activity for the whole decade or so that it has been going on. And finally they have taken action to propose (not yet impose) a complete ban on partially hydrogenated oils added to foods.

Hallelujah! This is a day I have waited for, for years. At last (well, soon) I can order pancakes at a restaurant and hope that they do not contain a ton of trans fats because they were made using one or another of the most common pancake mixes, which ALL contain large doses of trans fats even if their package fronts scream “Zero Grams.”

Lying labelOr eat a piece of real honest-to-God homemade pie and hope the person who made it from scratch didn’t go to the supermarket and grab a can of Crisco, which also loudly proclaims “Zero Grams Trans Fat,’ right on the front of the can, but lists partially-hydrogenated oil as a major ingredient.

I have avoided trans fats scrupulously for about twenty years, but my blood tests still show I have been exposed to these deadly chemicals. That’s because restaurants, friends, and family have been hoisting them under my nose at every turning.

You may say, “Jeez, Tom, don’t be so paranoid.”

I say, “Wake up and smell the CoffeeMate.” This isn’t over until the FDA formalizes its ban.

About Tom Hopp

Thomas P Hopp is a scientist and author living in Seattle. He writes Peyton McKean mystery stories and the Dinosaur Wars science fiction series.
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