Nutritional Disinformation


Recently, I was handed a cookie to taste. It was bland and hard-to-chew, but I was intrigued by one thing—it was cleverly designed to have an edible imprint of its ingredient list on its face. Even better, it was accompanied by another cookie with an edible imprint of its nutritional-information grid. The nutritional-information cookie stated: "Trans Fat 0g." The problem was that the ingredient cookie listed (among other off-putting things) partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, hydrogenated vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated palm kernel and cottonseed oils, all of which are trans fats. I put a call in to the company, called Andrew Andrew, and spoke to a man, appropriately named Andrew, who assured me that both the nutritional-information and the ingredient-information cookies were correct. But how could this be?

I checked Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking, which confirmed that partially hydrogenated oils are trans fats. Then I stumbled on this website, which quotes the FDA: "If the serving contains less than 0.5 gram [of trans fat], the content, when declared, shall be expressed as zero." Some of the other editors I mentioned it to were aware of this proviso, but it was news to me. These cookies and many other products containing partially hydrogenated oils still contain trans fats, but not enough to warrant declaration. I guess .4999 is the new zero.

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