Unheralded triumph in trans fat cuts

by Josh Sosland
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It was less than 10 years ago that the baking industry was scrambling to deal with scrutiny given to trans fatty acids in general and as content in baked foods in particular. Trans fats were popularly used in baking because they extend shelf life, offer other important functional benefits and help contain costs. Because of a linkage between trans fats and heart disease, the federal government mandated inclusion of trans fat content on Nutrition Facts Panels beginning in 2006.

A recent study conducted by a U.S. Department of Agriculture economist demonstrates both the magnitude of the problem for baking in 2005 and the extraordinary progress made since that time.

Ilya Rahkovsky, an economist at the U.S.D.A. and an adjunct professor at American University, found that baked foods in 2005 was the food category with the highest trans fat content in new products — 0.49 grams per serving. The second highest category was prepared meals, at just over 0.35 grams per serving.

Fast forward to 2010, and trans fat in baked foods new products has plunged to 0.13 grams per serving, a 73% decline. No longer the top food category for trans fats, new products of baked foods in 2010 had less trans fat than prepared meals and about the same as desserts. The success bakers have had in introducing new products with little or no trans fat represents an achievement meriting celebration.

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