What Are You Really Eating?

Trans fat could be hiding in your trans fat-free food.

Think twice before you bust open that bag of chips-you could be eating more trans fat than you think, thanks to a loophole in FDA food labeling laws.

bag of potato chips

As far as fats go, trans fats are considered among the worst dietary dangers. Studies have linked the substance to elevated cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.

But current regulations have a loose definition of "zero," allowing companies to tout foods containing less than 0.5 grams as "trans fat free." So a product with 0.49 grams of trans fat can be rounded down to zero on the label, meaning consumers could easily exceed the daily recommended value of 1.11 grams of trans fat despite their best efforts to avoid them, according to Case Western Reserve University medical student researcher Eric Brandt.

In an article published in the January/February issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, Brandt calls on the FDA to revise its policies so that food labels more accurately reflect trans fat content.

In the meantime, the best way to avoid trans fat is to check the ingredient list for "partially hydrogenated" and "hydrogenated" oils, Brandt says.