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Good piece in the New York Times this morning about how, “in a twist of science, the law and what some call trans-fat hysteria,” bakers in some parts of the country “are being forced to substitute processed fats like palm oil and margarine for good old-fashioned butter because of the small amounts of natural trans fat butter contains.

“Some researchers believe that the trans fat that occurs naturally in butter, meat, milk and cheese might actually be healthy. But to satisfy companies that want to call their foods completely free of trans fats,” these bakers are switching to ingredients like trans fat-free margarine.

The Times writes: “The focus on removing trans fat has centered on the kind created by partial hydrogenation, which turns liquid oil into a solid fat like shortening that adds creaminess and shelf life to commercial baked goods and, for home cooks, makes a flaky pie crust. Trans fat is also created when certain inexpensive and sturdy oils are heated in deep-fat fryers.

“But Americans eat far more artificial trans fat than natural trans fat, which is found in small amounts in butter and meat…But to the Food and Drug Administration, which is in charge of most packaged food labeling, there is no difference between the trans fat that occurs in cows and other ruminant animals and the kind that is artificially created and favored in large-scale food manufacturing. An F.D.A. rule that took effect in 2006 states that if a product has a half a gram or more of trans fat per serving, the amount has to go on the food label and the food can’t be called trans fat-free, even if butter is the only fat.”
KC's View:
See, this is something that we didn’t really know…we’d sort of heard it in the background, but it didn’t register.

It sounds reasonable to us that if trans fats are going to be listed on the label, it ought to distinguish between natural and artificial trans fats. But maybe that is too nuanced for the government to grapple with.