'Trans fat' triggers consumer group alert
August 7, 1996
Web posted at: 5:20 p.m. EDT (2120 GMT)
From Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As you might have suspected, the news
from scientists about fat in foods only gets worse.
The non-governmental consumer group Center for Science in the
Public Interest (CSPI) issued a warning Wednesday for a group
of fats called "trans fats" not normally counted when
assessing a food's nutritional content.
CSPI wants restaurants to switch to liquid vegetable oils,
which have no trans fats, and for food packagers to indicate
trans fat amounts on such products a margarines and microwave
Trans fat is the evil artery-clogging relative of saturated
fat, according to CSPI. But trans fat is potentially more
dangerous than saturated fat because the public is unaware of
The new enemy of your arteries lurks in the always-popular
category of fried foods: things like donuts and french fries.
These foods already contain saturated fat, but CSPI says
trans fat can make them twice as deadly.
Dr. Walter Willett, who studies nutrition and heart disease
from his post at the Harvard School of Public Health, raised
the alarm about trans fat two years ago, and has recently
referred to it as a secret killer.
But not all scientists agree. Several groups, including the
American Dietetic Association and the American Society for
Clinical Nutrition, say that years of research have been
inconclusive. They claim there is no reason to be alarmed
about trans fats.
Jeff Prince of the National Restaurant Association pointed to
the lack of scientific consensus when confronted by CSPI's
call for changes in how fried foods are prepared. He said
that his group does not plan to alter how it cooks until
there is scientific agreement on the effects of trans fats.
Margo Wootan of CSPI, however, says there is no time to lose.
"I don't want ten years from now to say to consumers, 'We've
known for twenty years that trans fat causes heart disease in
this country, but we didn't want to tell you,'" Wootan said.
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