Food Labels Deceptive on Trans Fats, Says Researcher


To more accurately reflect the amount of trans fat in food, Brandt believes it should be listed in increments of one-tenth of a gram. If, for example, there are .35 grams of trans fat in a food, the label should read .4 grams. If there are .34 grams of trans fat, the label should read .3 grams.

"The only time the amount should read zero is if there are .04 grams or less," said Brandt.

Other experts agree there should be changes in the way manufacturers convey trans fat amounts on their labels but suggest other ways of doing it.

"A better listing would be on the front of the package saying, 'This product contains trans fats. Trans fats raise cholesterol levels and may lead to heart attacks and stroke,'" said Klauer.

Ayoob said he believes that amounts less than .5 grams should be listed, but is also worries that new regulations would cause manufacturers to cut out trans fats entirely and replace them with substitutes, such as fully hydrogenated oil.

Consumers Need to Become Knowledgeable

"That will probably lead to eating a diet more full of saturated fat," said Ayoob. Saturated fats are found in such foods as butter, cheese and beef, and they raise total cholesterol levels.

"I do not agree that there should be labeling for amounts less than .5 grams," said Joanne Ikeda, co-founder of the Center for Weight and Health at the University of California at Berkeley. "The reason is because trans fats occur naturally in a variety of foods such as meat and dairy products. If people eliminate these foods from their diets, it could result in deficiencies of certain nutrients such as calcium."

The FDA has required trans fat information on food labels since 2006. A spokesperson for the agency said since it hasn't yet seen Brandt's paper, it is too early to comment on it. However, the spokesperson also said it's difficult to confirm amounts less than .5 grams, which is why that became the rule.

Some nutritionists say that so far, the FDA's guidelines on trans fat labeling have been effective.

"Most food companies have made a concerted effort to eliminate trans fat from their products because they knew consumers are concerned about these fats," said Ikeda.

Regardless of FDA guidelines, experts recommend that consumers stay knowledgeable about what's in their food.

"They need to look at both nutrition facts and ingredients and be sufficiently informed about both to interpret them," said Katz.

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