ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. — The entire soft (tub) spreads portfolio in the United States for Unilever will have no partially hydrogenated oils and will be labeled as having 0 grams of trans fat per serving by the second quarter of 2010, the company said July 27. The company will remove partially hydrogenated vegetable oil from I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Brummel & Brown, Shedd’s Spread Country Crock and Imperial soft spread products sold in tub formats.

Unilever also will ensure the saturated fat content of the spreads remain as low as possible, or 2 grams or less per serving.

"As the category leader with a portfolio of leading brands enjoyed by families across the country, we’re proud to make a commitment that will have a positive impact on the health and wellness of millions of our loyal customers," said John LeBoutillier, senior vice-president and general manager, U.S. Foods, Unilever.

Dr. Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said she commended Unilever on the move.

"Leading health authorities have made it clear that it is advisable for consumers to limit both saturated and trans fats in their diets, and, in making this change, Unilever will continue to have a portfolio that provides consumers with better nutrition choices," she said.

While partial hydrogenation causes trans fats, the Food and Drug Administration mandates food manufacturers state "0 grams of trans fat" on the Nutrition Facts Panel if each serving of the product contains less than 0.5 grams. A product with partially hydrogenated oil thus will have trans fat in it although the Nutrition Facts Panel may say "0 grams of trans fat."

Smart Balance, Inc., Paramus, N.J., has sought to educate consumers about this situation through its "Zero Isn’t Zero" advertising campaign launched this year.