Once-Touted Fat Now Demonized
By Kim Severson and Melanie Warner
New York Times
An artificial fat once embraced as a cheap and seemingly healthy alternative to saturated fats like butter or tropical oils, partially hydrogenated oil has been the food industry’s favorite cooking medium for decades. It makes french fries crisp and sweets creamy, and keeps packaged pastries fresh for months.
But scientists contend that trans fat, a component of the oil, is more dangerous than the fat it replaced. Studies show trans fat has the same heartclogging properties as saturated fat, but unlike saturated fat, it reduces the good cholesterol that can clear arteries.
The Food and Drug Administration has declared that there is no healthy level in the diet and has ordered food companies to disclose trans fat amounts on food labels by January 2006.
That has sent companies on an expensive and frustrating race to change America’s oil. Substitutes have often proved to be inefficient in the food preparation process or result in products with unsatisfactory taste.
So far, only the most health conscious consumers are shopping to avoid trans fat.
But food companies are betting that will change when the labeling law takes effect, and they have already spent tens of millions of dollars trying to get rid of trans fat without-changing the-taste of America’s favorite processed and fast foods.
Various studies led the medical advisers for the Institute of Medicine at the National
Academy of Sciences to declare in 2002 that they could not determine a healthful limit of trans fat, as they had for other dietary fats. The following year the government approved the labeling law.
The $500 billion food-processing industry has long defended trans fat. But with the new labeling requirement looming and lawmakers searching for ways to hold food companies responsible for their customers’ health, getting rid of lt has become an obsession.
“It’s the perfect storm for these companies: concern over litigation and legislation, as well as a market opportunity of baby boomers getting older and being more concerned with their health,” said Dean Ornish, the director for the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., and a consultant to PepsiCo, McDonald’s and ConAgra Foods.
Finding a substitute for partially hydrogenated oil is more daunting and considerably more expensive than food companies first imagined. That is because it is the perfect fat for modern food manufacturers. Produced by pumping liquid vegetable oil full of hydrodrogen with a metal catalystat high heat, the fat stays solid at room temperature -an essential trait for mass-produced baked goods. But that is the very process that creates the dangerous trans fat.
McDonald’s Settles suit over trans-fats promise
San Francisco Chronicle
McDonald’s Corp. made front-page news 2 years ago when it promised to cut the level of dangerous trans fats in its cooking oil.
But the oil change never came.
Last week, the fast-food giant agreed in Marin County, Calif., Superior Court to pay 7 million to the American Heart Association for a supersized public-education campaign about trans fats.
In addition, McDonald’s agreed to spend $1.5 million to publish notices of its progress in finding an oil substitute.
When the company didn’t hit its deadline – the chain said it had issued a news release in February 2003 saying its plans had been delayed - San Francisco public interest attorney Stephen Joseph, president of BanTrarisFats. com, sued. He contends that McDonald’s did not take sufficient steps to inform the public that it had failed to change its oil.
In the settlement reached last week, McDonald’s agreed to pay $7 million to the American Heart Association for such things as public education regarding trans fats and campaigns encouraging the food industry to replace partially hydrogenated oils.
The company also agreed to spend $1.5 million to tell people the status of its trans fat initiative.
McDonald’s spokesman Walt Riker said the company didn’t know when it would find a suitable cookmg oil replacement.
“We’re still working and testing,” Riker said. “We’re going to keep trying until we get it right.”
Companies stir up new recipes without Trans Fat
Posted 1/18/2005 4:42 PM
WOODMERE, Ohio (AP) — The nation’s food companies are stirring up new recipes for everything from Oreos to SpaghettiOs to get rid of trans fat, the artery-clogging ingredient that must be listed on food labels next year.
The FDA has ordered companies to list trans fat, which increases risk of heart disease, on food labels by 2006.
The companies say they’re promoting good health, but they’re also looking ahead to the new federal rule and new dietary guidelines urging consumers away from trans fats.
Trans fats have been in the nation’s food supply for decades, giving products a long shelf life and making goodies like chips and cookies oh so yummy.
They are formed when liquid oils turn into solid fats and they are generally listed on foods as partially hydrogenated oils. Grab a bag of cookies from the snack food aisle and chances are trans fats are there.
But maybe not for long. The Food and Drug Administration is ordering trans fats to be listed on food labels by January 2006. The FDA says trans fat, like saturated fat, increases the risk of heart disease.
A few years ago, Sarit Zamir was like many consumers — clueless about the subject.
“I used to eat junk food a few years ago. We just didn’t know,” said the 32-year-old mother of three.
Now, Zamir goes out of her way to shop at a store that promises 100% trans fat-free foods. She says that since making the change in her family’s diet, she’s noticed a difference in her children’s health, behavior and ability to get a good night’s sleep.
“I don’t touch trans fat at all,” she said, her cart filled with soy milk, cage-free eggs and pure rice bran.
It took several years for the Wild Oats Natural Marketplace where Zamir shops to remove all the trans fat from its shelves, said Mandi Kelley, marketing coordinator of the store in tiny Woodmere Village outside of Cleveland.
“There were a lot of companies we had to coax into changing their ingredients,” she said.
Eliminating trans fat isn’t as simple as removing partially hydrogenated oils and substituting another oil — not if you want to keep the flavor.
“It takes smart engineering, smart chemistry,” said James Chung, president of Reach Advisors Inc., a Boston-based marketing strategy and research firm.
“There’s a reason why consumers like partially hydrogenated oils. Let’s face it — fat tastes good.”
Still, Chung expects to see mainstream companies gain market share with trans fat-free products, up until the point that most have removed it.
Campbell Soup has revised some products and is working on a few more, including some varieties of Chunky soup and SpaghettiOs with meatballs.
“Our goal is to remove the trans fat without impacting the taste because we have products that people have been enjoying for years and years,” spokeswoman Juli Mandel Sloves said.
Campbell’s owns Pepperidge Farm, which met its goal of having zero grams trans fat in its entire line of Goldfish crackers by December, Mandel Sloves said. Pepperidge Farm is turning its attention to other products, especially cookies.
The J.M. Smucker Co. introduced a version of Crisco with zero grams trans fat last April. The new product comes in a green tub — a color consumers equate with being healthy. Smucker’s spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher said the product has been doing well.
Gorton Inc. announced it had removed trans fats from all 56 of its frozen seafood products.
Kraft Foods Inc. has removed trans fats from Triscuits and Oreos and is now working on other cookies and crackers, spokeswoman Nancy Daigler said. The company wants to make sure that when eliminating trans fat, the new product’s combined total of trans or saturated fats is lower than the original.
In some cases, like Triscuit, the removal of trans fat isn’t noticeable. But in others it is, like the trans fat-free Oreo, which has a different texture and taste compared with the creamy, crispy original. Frito-Lay began working to eliminate trans fat in 2002 and completed a conversion to corn oil for Tostitos, Doritos and Cheetos a year later. Frito-Lay was a trans fat trendsetter, Chung said, but the message got lost in the Atkins diet craze.
Trans fat could become the new carbohydrate as far as consumer avoidance, but Chung doesn’t expect the mania that Atkins inspired.
For Wild Oats shopper Tim Hemry, trans fat isn’t at the forefront of his thoughts. But the 53-year-old’s family avoids it by staying away from prepackaged food.
“We want good-for-you food,” Hemry said. “The hydrogenated oil is no good for you. Our rule is as close to God made it in the first place.”
Butter flavor in Popcorn is toxic. May lead to Alzheimers.
OMAHA, Neb. – Four of the nation’s biggest microwave popcorn makers are working to remove a flavoring chemical from their products linked to a lung ailment in popcorn plant workers while reassuring consumers about the safety of the snack.
Several of the companies discussed their plans Wednesday, a day after a leading lung research hospital warned that consumers also could be in danger from the buttery flavoring diacetyl.
The three companies that sell Orville Redenbacher, Act II, Pop Secret and Jolly Time microwave popcorn said they planned to change the recipes for their butter-flavored microwave popcorn to remove diacetyl.
The chemical diacetyl has been linked to cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare life-threatening disease often called popcorn lung.
ConAgra Foods Inc., General Mills Inc. and the American Pop Corn Company all promised to make the change because of safety concerns. Together those companies accounted for more than 80 percent of the market for microwave popcorn over the past 12 months, according to the research firm Information Resources Inc.
ConAgra spokeswoman Stephanie Childs said the change will not affect its popular stovetop popcorn, Jiffy Pop, because it contains natural butter instead of the threatening chemical.
Last week, another popcorn manufacturer, Weaver Popcorn Co. of Indianapolis, said it would replace the butter flavoring ingredient because of consumer concern.
Microwave Popcorn: Study Shows Chemical butter flavor is Toxic
SARAH SHIPLEY St. Louis Post-Dispatch 28 feb 04
Former workers at a Missouri microwave popcorn plant are slowly suffocating from breathing a chemical that was known to be toxic long before most of them got sick, according to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch.
At least 31 people who worked at a popcorn factory in Jasper County have been diagnosed with severe lung disease linked to breathing vapors from a butter flavoring. Eight are on waiting lists for lung transplants.
Doctors spent years figuring out what had caused the workers’ lungs to scar and harden, their chests to tighten and wheeze, their skin to peel off in chunks.
what is clear, according to documents obtained by the Post-Dispatch, is that a key ingredient of the butter flavoring was known within the chemical industry to be highly toxic to rats in 1993, before the workers at the Gilster-Mary Lee plant in Jasper, Mo., fell ill.
After breathing diacetyl vapors for just four hours, some rats gagged and gasped for breath. Half the rats in the study died within a day.