2006 Marketplace Survey of Trans-Fatty Acid Content of Margarines and Butters, Cookies and Snack Cakes, and Savory Snacks


      In recent years, newer technologies have been developed to reduce the trans-fat content of fats and oils used in manufacturing food products. To examine the implications of these changes on foods in the marketplace, a survey was conducted to assess current levels of trans and saturated fat in three food categories: margarines and butters; cookies and snack cakes; and savory snacks. A sampling of products from each category was conducted at a Wal-Mart Supercenter in the Minneapolis-St Paul, MN, metropolitan area in July of 2006. All information was obtained from product labels, except price, which was recorded from price listings on product shelving. Most margarines and butters (21 of 29), cookies and snack cakes (34 of 44), and savory snacks (31 of 40) were labeled as containing 0 g trans fat. However, some products contained substantial amounts of trans fat. Most notably, 3 of 40 savory snack products were labeled as containing ≥3 g trans fat. Significant inverse correlations were found between product price and the saturated and trans-fat content of margarines (r=−0.45) and savory snacks (r=−0.32). In conclusion, it appears that the food industry has made progress in reducing the trans-fat content in a variety of products. Nonetheless, consumers need to read product labels because the trans-fat content of individual products can vary considerably. Products that are lower in trans and saturated fat tend to cost more, which may be a barrier to their purchase for price-conscious consumers.
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      M. J. Albers is a graduate student, L. Harnack is an associate professor, L. M. Steffen is an associate professor, and D. R. Jacobs, Jr is a professor, all at the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.