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Trans Fat in New York City Frequently Asked Questions

What is trans fat?

Most trans fat is produced artificially through a chemical process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil, resulting in a "partially hydrogenated" oil.

Which foods contain trans fat?

While trace amounts of trans fat are found naturally in meat and dairy products, most trans fat in our diet is artificial. Common sources of artificial trans fat include: foods fried in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; margarine and vegetable shortening; prepared foods such as pre-fried French fries, taco shells, and doughnuts; baked goods such as hamburger buns, pizza dough, crackers, cookies, and pies; and pre-mixed products such as pancake and hot chocolate mix. Products made with artificial trans fat have "partially hydrogenated" oil listed in the ingredients. All of these products can be made without artificial trans fat.

Why is trans fat so bad?

Not only does trans fat  increase LDL ("bad") cholesterol, it lowers HDL ("good") cholesterol. Trans fat has no known health benefits. There is no safe level of artificial trans fat consumption.

How can I avoid eating trans fat?

NYC has restricted trans fat use in food service establishments.  Consumers can further avoid trans fat by checking the Nutrition Facts panel on packaged foods to choose foods with 0 grams trans fat.  Food companies can list the amount of trans fat as '0g' on the Nutrition Facts panel and claim “0g Trans Fat” if the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams.  To further ensure that a food contains no trans fat, check the ingredients list on the package to make sure “partially hydrogenated [vegetable] oil” is not listed. 

Aren't many of the alternatives - such as the saturated fat found in butter or lard - just as bad for you as the trans fat in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?

Evidence indicates that trans fat is even worse than saturated fat. Trans fat is commonly replaced with heart-healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated oils, including corn, soybean, safflower, sunflower, and canola, that can be used alone or in combination with palm oil and other saturated fats.

What is NYC’s restriction on trans fat?

Beginning in 2008, NYC restricted the use of trans fat in all food service establishments, except when packaged foods are served in the manufacturer's original packaging (for example, packaged crackers served with soup).

Is the trans fat restriction successful?

A recent study examining trans fat content of NYC fast-food purchases found that trans fat content was significantly lower in fast-food purchases following NYC’s restriction.  During the past year, over 90% of restaurants were in compliance at their initial health inspection.