The FDA Is Only Closing a Trans Fat Math Loophole, But It Still Matters

Friday, November 08, 2013

Six years after NYC banned trans fats in restaurants, the FDA has started the process of a national ban. Marion Nestle, professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University, and author of Food Politics: How The Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health talks about the impact of the ban on public health and grocery bills.


Marion Nestle's Take:

  • The issue is “semi-moot” – mostly the FDA is taking care of the last loophole. Most companies already removed trans-fats when the FDA forced them to list the amount on their packaging. This just removes the rule that half-a-gram can be listed as zero.
  • That's right -- in FDA math, just under 1/2g of trans fat per serving = zero trans fat. This matters because any trans fat is bad, but also because many people eat 3-4 servings, which can add up.
  • Oreos don't have trans fats. If Oreo can figure it out, other companies will find a way. High end restaurants and national chains are already trans fat-free.
  • Companies can still have trans fats, but they would have to fill out a food additive petition, demonstrating that it’s necessary for their product. That is such a nuisance that manufacturers will just find alternatives.


Marion Nestle

Comments [38]

Sally Edelstein from NY

It may be hard to digest bur once upon a time much maligned trans fats like Crisco shortening were a smart, healthful choice. An emblem of scientific progress this labor saving economical fat was a wonder for the harried health conscious housewife. No where was the transformative power of trans fats felt more than in the kosher Jewish household where it was nothing short of a miracle.

Mar. 06 2014 11:01 AM
Gabriela from Gardiner

Thank you for the "chemistry lesson". I now actually understand the reason behind *why* trans fat is bad for us. Brian, you are right: your audience can handle science!

Dec. 02 2013 01:51 PM
redapes from New York City

If palm oil is used as a substitute oil, the results for the environment will be catastrophic. Around 90% of the global supply of palm oil comes from Indonesia & Malaysia and this has come at a tremendous cost for biodiversity. Indonesian forests are being burned to the ground-- releasing so much carbon into the atmosphere that Indonesia now ranks only behind China and US in carbon emissions-- and it is barely industrialized. The UNEP estimates that the forests of Indonesia are being cleared at a rate of 6 football fields per minute every minute of every day.

The palm oil industry is guilty of truly heinous ecological atrocities, including the systematic genocide of orangutans. The forests of Borneo and Sumatra are the only place where these gentle, intelligent creatures live, and the cultivation of palm oil has directly led to the brutal deaths of thousands of individuals as the industry has expanded into previously undisturbed areas of rainforest at an alarming rate.

When the forest is cleared, adult orangutans are typically shot on sight. These peaceful, sentient beings who share approximately 97% of our DNA are beaten, burned, mutilated, tortured and often eaten. Babies are literally torn off their dying mothers so they can be sold on the black market as illegal pets to wealthy families who see them as status symbols of their own power and prestige. This has been documented time and again.

And now the same palm oil companies are opening up industrial-sized plantations in Africa...

If nothing is done to protect orangutans, they will be extinct in just a few years. Visit the Orangutan Outreach website to learn more:

Nov. 09 2013 12:45 PM

Our paleo ancestors didn't eat oil. Edible oil is processed and not found in nature, not to mention 100% artery clogging fat. Even coconut oil has to be obtained from lots of coconuts. Eat whole foods, it's common sense folks. But people are addicted and love to hear good things about their bad habits. My cat ate a mouse head first including the tail, now that's a true carnivore.

Nov. 09 2013 10:17 AM
Will from New Brunswick

Atkins had a stroke, fell down and died and had heart disease. Sally Fallon is fat. People aren't able to look at the science about cholesterol because they want to eat crap.

Trans fats are in meat and dairy too but people don't want to hear that.

Nov. 09 2013 10:00 AM
Emily from Jersey city

Hi I called during the show to discuss the use of Palm oil....PLEASE check your labels and avoid buying into this market. It. Is extremely hazardous to our environment. If you are worried about your fat intake, stick with all natural products and the paleo diet! It worked for our ancestors......

Nov. 08 2013 08:48 PM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

The morning after our President admitted that he LIED to the American people for FOUR YEARS and ridiculed anyone who questioned his bogus claims .... you lead with THIS story???

Trans fats .... gee, where's the journalistic beef?

Nov. 08 2013 11:57 AM

ban food that causes heart disease and diabetes from being fed to children in public school cafeterias.

Nov. 08 2013 11:43 AM

@Felicia from Harlem (and the caller who asked about raw, unprocessed palm oil vs. industrial palm oil): there are some health differences: for instance, unprocessed palm oil has various carotenoid nutrients that are not in the refined stuff, and the industrial stuff can sometimes have low levels of hexane (which is used to extract extra oil out of the pulp) which are not present in the unprocessed stuff. However, even unrefined palm oil is still unhealthy, because it has the same saturated fat content as the industrially-processed stuff, and that is a much bigger risk to your health than the low levels of hexane or the loss of carotenoids.

Nov. 08 2013 11:07 AM

@Felicia from Harlem (and the caller who asked about raw, unprocessed palm oil vs. industrial palm oil): there are some health differences: for instance, unprocessed palm oil has various carotenoid nutrients that are not in the refined stuff, and the industrial stuff can sometimes have low levels of hexane (which is used to extract extra oil out of the pulp) which are not present in the unprocessed stuff. However, even unrefined palm oil is still unhealthy, because it has the same saturated fat content as the industrially-processed stuff, and that is a much bigger risk to your health than the low levels of hexane or the loss of carotenoids.

Nov. 08 2013 11:06 AM
John A

Remember people, cholesterol (meats,eggs,milk), and saturated fat still increase heart disease risk. I see a war of 'personal facts', (a la D.P.Moynihan) going on here on this board...

Nov. 08 2013 10:38 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

What about bakery cookies????????

Will they be TransFat free too?

Nov. 08 2013 10:35 AM
Felicia from Harlem

I hope Prof. Nestle will get an answer to that question about Palm oil from African Markets, as I also use it on occasion to make certain African dishes like Red-Red. I think with the person is saying is that the Palm oil you buy there is not industrially processed, not that he was himself squeezing it from the nut. It does separate in the bottle unlike the palm oils you can buy in regular supermarkets.

So is that type of palm oil any different from the industrially processed oil? Am I killing my friends by making this?

Nov. 08 2013 10:33 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ tom from Astoria: Lard is all natural (if you want to look at Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, you'll think twice), but it is 100% saturated fat. Only if you corner the market on Lipitor will you want to go back to using lard.

BTW, the reason crusts are so nice and flaky with lard is that it is saturated. The structure of the fat molecules is what has that effect. However, if the saturated fat is going to clog your arteries and kill you, you won't get to enjoy your lard-crusted creations too long. Ya pays ur money and ya takes ur chances.

Nov. 08 2013 10:31 AM
John A

Great segment. Bravo FDA for being able to get regulations through during a republican administration (2003). But I have long detested that 0 not-equals nothing loophole, which the show went over Twice! Great!

Nov. 08 2013 10:31 AM

Lauren, meat isnt bad for you. that's propaganda from the vegetarian and vegan camps. humans developed eating meat. science fact

Nov. 08 2013 10:29 AM
Lauren from Brighter Green from Brooklyn, NY

The Western diet is extremely harmful to our bodies and even as we start to try and regulate the negative effects in this country, developing nations are adopting this diet causing a surge in public health issues. Read some of our work on the negative effects of the Western diet on developing nations here:

Additionally, meat consumption is also extremely harmful to our environment as well as our bodies. Take a look:

Nov. 08 2013 10:24 AM
Amy from Manhattan

There's even a movement to get the palm oil out of Girl Scout cookies.

John from Brooklyn, they're talking about trans fats, not (fully) saturated fats, as Prof. Nestle specified.

Nov. 08 2013 10:20 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

It's not just that trans fats are bad. Lard is bad too but it's a natural product - like sugar and salt. Added trans fats are NOT NATURAL.

Nov. 08 2013 10:20 AM


Dr. Atkins!

Nov. 08 2013 10:18 AM

Thanks John! Dr. Atkins was right.

Nov. 08 2013 10:18 AM
Robert from NYC

After this I think I'll stop eating completely, then I will die of starvation and my remains will degenerate into it's chemical components, get absorbed back into the earth and I will have contributed to replenishing the earth. I am a good person.

Nov. 08 2013 10:17 AM
John from Bklyn

Here's the latest, from the best, in the best journal, about the "dangers" of saturated fat:

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):535-46. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease.

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM.
Children's Hospital, Oakland Research Institute Oakland, CA, USA.

A meta-analysis of prospective epidemiologic studies showed that there is NO SIGNIFICANT EVIDENCE for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD. More data are needed to elucidate whether CVD risks are likely to be influenced by the specific nutrients used to replace saturated fat.

Nov. 08 2013 10:16 AM
tom from astoria

Pie crusts and cookies used to be made delicious and flakey with LARD. 1930s, 40s 50s Crisco and other transfats replaced Lard. Will we return to using it?

Nov. 08 2013 10:16 AM

saturated fat is good for you.

Nov. 08 2013 10:11 AM

all trans fats are bad

Nov. 08 2013 10:10 AM
Robert from NYC

I don't know, I'm starting to feel saturated!

Nov. 08 2013 10:08 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

@ Stephen from Prospect Heights: There are plenty of kosher products on the market that have no transfats - INCLUDING OREOS! I eat only kosher parve because I am a lactose intolerant vegetarian, and I never buy products with transfats.

Nov. 08 2013 10:08 AM

not all trans fats are bad...right?

Nov. 08 2013 10:07 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Another loophole seems to be that they don't have to list transfats if they are listed as mono- or diglycerides (which are related to triglycerides).

Many companies are now cashing in on the "No Transfats" labeling, including Oreos, so at least we don't have to go cold turkey off all packaged foods.

Nov. 08 2013 10:05 AM
Fred L from Brooklyn

Can you ask the guest about the use of palm oil in place of hydrogenated oils? I've heard that so-called "tropical" oils are used in place of hydrogenated oils but can be just as harmful.

Nov. 08 2013 10:05 AM
savitra from manhattan

slightly unrelated question: how are those nutritional values tables on all food packaging calculated? is every food product actually analyzed for content? or do the manufacturers look in some book from the 1950s that purports to tell them how much of each nutrient is in every pound of each of their ingredients?

Nov. 08 2013 10:05 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

Please ask Ms. Nestle: is coconut oil, which is solid at room temp, a safe alternative?

Nov. 08 2013 10:04 AM
Stephen from Prospect Heights

How about Kosher laws? Most Kosher products use to avoid dairy.

Nov. 08 2013 10:03 AM

Brian, please mention Dr. Atkins war against it and how he was demonized

Nov. 08 2013 10:02 AM

Its about time people start to recognize what Dr. Atkins knew long ago. Trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, high glycemic carbohydrates like processed carbohydrates are killing us. Dr. Atkins deserves a noble peace prize (even though he has passed).

The core of the Atkins diet has been proved true and is stolen with every new diet out today. The premise of obtaining high quality organic food that you cook yourself is what he was screaming about since the 70's. He believed that eating protein and fat is very important, especially saturated fats which now are starting to be seen as beneficial again. And to the doubters, he was a huge proponent of vegetables and exercise.

Nov. 08 2013 09:57 AM
Edward from Washington Heights AKA pretenious Hudson Heights

Trans Fats have killed more Americans than guns ever have.

Nov. 08 2013 09:43 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Unlike his hostility towards legal gun ownership, the 4th amendments rights of young men of color, and his well meaning but uneven and clumsy attempt at soda restriction; one of the few things I agreed with Bloomberg on, was the ban on trans fats.

As with the indoor smoking ban, the trans fat ban showed how influential a New York mayor can be in changing public policy - nationally and globally. It's ridiculous that it took the FDA so long to take this poison out of food.

Nov. 08 2013 09:32 AM

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