In continuing our discussion of “health halos,” we’re going to talk about trans fats. Trans fat has been very big in the news in the past few years because it was found that it is has very negative effects on cholesterol levels. The FDA concluded that trans fats are at least as harmful if not more harmful than saturated fats and play a large role in increasing your risk of heart disease. As a result of these findings, the FDA requires that trans fat content be shared on the food package label. Because there was so much negative press about trans fats, many food companies ended up changing the make-up of their products so that they wouldn’t include any trans fats at all. This sounds like a really great thing for us as consumers of these products. In reality though, many of these companies did not end up making their products healthier by taking out the trans fats. The simply replaced the trans fats with saturated fats. Which, as denoted earlier, are just as bad as the trans fats they are replacing.
So, when a package reads “0 trans fat” on the label, it does not mean it is healthy, it can still have large amounts of saturated fat. For example! Edy’s Dibs ice cream treats say “0 trans fat” on the front but when you read the nutrition facts panel on the back, they contain a whopping 16 grams of saturated fat per serving! To put this in perspective, the FDA considers 4 grams per serving to be high and does not allow products with saturated fat levels above 4 grams to make health claims on their packages. “0 trans fat” is not considered a health claim, so the package is tricking the customer into believing the product is healthy!
I really hope this series on healthy marketing is helping you to see past the packaging and make more informed decisions about what you are putting into your bodies. We have two posts left; the next on misleading ingredient claims for whole grains and fruit and vegetable content and the last on misleading “natural” claims. Check back soon for those!