On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils — one of the primary sources of trans fats — are no longer “generally recognized as safe.” If this is finalized, partially hydrogenated oils will be categorized as food additives requiring approval to be used in food.
Trans fats have been used since the mid-1900s to improve the flavor, texture and shelf life of many processed foods. Though they naturally occur in meat and dairy, their use in processed foods has been more of a concern because of their significantly larger role in the American diet.
This type of fat is even more harmful to cardiovascular health than saturated fat. It increases levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowers levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Research from the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition estimates that eliminating trans fats from the U.S. food supply could prevent up to 1-in-5 heart attacks and related deaths.
Today, trans fats can be found in fast food and a wide range of processed food products, such as cookies, cake mixes, piecrusts, frozen pizza, microwave popcorn and chips. And while the FDA declared in 2006 that trans fats must be included in the Nutrition Facts label of packaged food, manufacturers can claim a product contains 0 grams of trans fat if there’s 0.5 grams or less per serving. This can be deceptive for obvious reasons: How many times have you eaten more than the "serving size?" (In Canada, manufacturers can only claim 0 grams of trans fats for products containing less than 0.2 grams.)
Many manufacturers adjusted their formulas in 2006 out of fear of consumer backlash since they had to list trans fats on packaging, but some brands have stubbornly refused to eliminate the harmful ingredient. Here are some of the many products that still contain trans fat: