Michael Moss in his book ‘Hooked’ revealed the name of another hero we can all be grateful to, the attorney Stephen Joseph.
You can read on his website how he took on Philip Morris, the tobacco giants, who owned Kraft, for their use of trans fats. It simply states ‘He sued Kraft to ban Oreo cookies because they contained trans fat. In response, Kraft removed trans fat from Oreos and all of its products, and many other companies did too.’
Saturated Fat – Raises LDL (bad cholesterol) and raises HDL (good cholesterol).
Natural Polyunsaturated Fat – Lowers LDL, raises HDL
Monounsaturated Fat – Lowers LDL, raises HDL
Trans Fats (Polyunsaturated fats that have been hydrogenated) – Raises LDL, lowers HDL
This is the highest risk fat. (These fats are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid, which is why they are often called partially hydrogenated oils.)
Moss explains: ‘This fat had been used originally to make margarine…….’ We all remember the marketing for margarine told us it was ‘just like butter’ but better for our health, ‘good for the heart’ and so on. Many of us changed to this oily substance, but felt a longing for the taste of butter, for margarine tasted nothing like butter.
Researchers were coming up with evidence that margarine actually clogged arteries and contributed to cardiovascular disease. By the time that evidence came out, many of us had been using it for years. The food industry adopted it throughout their product ranges as it preserved the shelf life of ‘cookies, cakes, biscuits, popcorn, doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, frozen pizza, and fried fast food.‘
Stephen Joseph went to his local supermarket and found it hard to find anything which did NOT contain trans fats. He understood trans fats were not essential to any of their product lines, but they chose to use it. Their scientists must have been aware, as he was, of the emerging evidence of danger to human health.
He was so incensed he determined to expose them and used the Nabisco division of Kraft of the brand Oreo to illustrate the heavy use of trans fats in both the wafer and the creme filling.
On 1st May 2003 he submitted his papers. He asked for the California court to ban the sale of Oreos throughout California, particularly underlining the point that the marketing targeted young children.
Philip Morris had only acquired Nabisco in 2000. They were not familiar with the development of Nabisco products prior to them being seen as sufficiently attractive to a takeover. They had revamped the Oreo brand to make it not only attractive to adults but also mega attractive to children. So whilst one hand of a child played with a toy, the other could reach for the optimally packaged supply of Mini Oreos launched in 2000. The massive success of this addictive, high calorie, trans fat loaded product put them on the map. Increasingly the strategy was to encourage compulsive eating through design.
Kraft simply agreed to remove trans fats from its products and the case ended amicably. Stephen Joseph has highlighted the dangers and the industry has decreased its use trans fats in the US over the past decades. But outside the US it is still a problem in fast foods.
The WHO in September 2020 said:
‘Two years into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ambitious effort to eliminate industrially produced trans fats from the global food supply, the Organization reports that 58 countries so far have introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from the harmful substance by the end of 2021. But more than 100 countries still need to take actions to remove these harmful substances from their food supplies.
Consumption of industrially produced trans fats are estimated to cause around 500,000 deaths per year due to coronary heart disease.
“In a time when the whole world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make every effort to protect people’s health. That must include taking all steps possible to prevent noncommunicable diseases that can make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, and cause premature death,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Our goal of eliminating trans fats by 2023 must not be delayed.”
Fifteen countries account for approximately two thirds of the worldwide deaths linked to trans fat intake. Of these, four (Canada, Latvia, Slovenia, United States of America) have implemented WHO-recommended best-practice policies since 2017, either by setting mandatory limits for industrially produced trans fats to 2% of oils and fats in all foods or banning partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).
But the remaining 11 countries (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea) still need to take urgent action.’
Trans fats have not disappeared and can still be found in unexpected places. Always inform yourself before purchasing. For example, I wrote to Violife of Greece, as I eat their vegetarian cheese, and I asked them if they hydrogenate the coconut oil in the cheese. They replied:
“Thank you for your interest in our products and for taking the time to contact us.
The coconut oil used in all Violife products is not hydrogenated. It is highly refined, all protein content has been removed and it is totally allergen free.
The coconut oil used in all Violife products is Refined Bleached Deodorised (RBD).”
I had also asked the Oatley.com oat drink producers about their description on their website of hydrogenation used in their products, they replied:
“Thank you for taking the time to write to us!
You’re totally right, partially hydrogenated fats are something we should look out for! With that said, let me guarantee you that none of our products contain trans fats as we are only using fully hydrogenated fats in the products where we use hydrogenated oils.”
So always ask if you are concerned.
Mid July this year, our UK media covered this National food Strategy Report. But our government are likely to obey the Food Industry lobbyists and shut any such progressive ideas down.
It is really up to us as consumers to understand the trickery to cultivate addiction to unhealthy fake foods from which these corporates make $billions and make those who are addicted grow horribly ill.