By Lara Evans Bracciante
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2004.
By Jan. 1, 2006, all nutrition labels will have to include the content of trans fats, an ingredient resulting from the use of partially hydrogenated oil. Trans fats increase shelf life in processed foods, but also increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol in humans, which can lead to heart disease, the No. 1 killer in America. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has refused to set a maximum recommended daily allowance, as it has done for saturated fat (25 grams), because most experts assert that any intake at all is dangerous. In the meantime, until trans fats show up on labels, consumers have no way of knowing how much they’re getting. The FDA is giving food producers until 2006 “to minimize the need for multiple labeling changes and to provide additional time for compliance by small businesses to allow them to use current label inventories and phase in label changes.” Critics chide the FDA for both the slow enforcement of the new legislation, originally proposed in 1999, and for not enforcing a warning on labels stating that trans fats intake should be as low as possible, an inclusion in the original proposal but dropped in the final implementation. Trans-fat opponents concede better late than never, but “late” is hard to stomach, they say, when heart disease claims a life every 34 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.