Kraft Foods and the Dangers of Trans Fats
Foods from Kraft often pretend to be healthy, but beware. Most Kraft products contain dangerous levels of artificial trans fats, which cause coronary heart disease (CHD) and other health problems.
While most food manufacturers have voluntarily removed harmful trans fats, Kraft puts profits over children’s health and refuses. Products like Teddy Grahams, Saltines, and Ritz Crackers all contain artificial trans fat. Their immoral and deceptive conduct has earned them an ongoing class action lawsuit in California.
We designed this page as a resource for consumers who want to look past Kraft’s deceptive advertising and find more information on the link between life-threatening diseases and the unhealthy ingredients in Kraft foods.
What is Trans Fat?
Artificial trans fat is manufactured in an industrial process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen atoms are added to normal vegetable oil at temperatures above 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The result is called “partially hydrogenated vegetable oil,” sometimes abbreviated PHVO.
When it was first invented in 1901, PHVO was seen as a “wonder product” because it is manufactured from inexpensive vegetable oil but has a long shelf life like expensive animal fats. PHVO also improves food texture and allows food products to withstand heavy processing and high temperatures. Because of these advantages, PHVO was used in 40 percent of processed packaged foods as recently as 2003.
PHVO and artificial trans fat do not exist in nature, and the human body has not evolved to digest them. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil may be convenient for food manufacturers, but it is dangerous to your health.
Ingredients of Ritz Whole WheatHow to Spot Trans Fat on the Shelf
Check the ingredients for any form of partially hydrogenated oil. For example, Ritz Crackers with Whole Wheat will list partially hydrogenated soybean oil or partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil among the ingredients. Both are common forms of PHVO.
Some products with trans fat even claim to have “0g of trans fat.” How do they get away with it? Well, current federal regulations say that if one serving contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat, it may be written as 0 grams of trans fat in the nutrition facts. The trouble is that small amounts of trans fat still cause health risks, especially if you eat several servings. So whatever the packaging says, make sure to check the listed ingredients for those dangerous partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Getting Rid of Trans Fats
Because of the overwhelming evidence for the dangers of trans fats, many people are trying to ban or limit their use. New York City banned trans fats from restaurant food in 2006, and California became the first state to do the same in 2008. Similar laws are on the books in Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Teddy Grahams packaging marketed for childrenInternationally, the nation of Denmark passed a law in 2004 that limited all foods to 2 percent or less of calories from trans fats. This healthy requirement did not affect the price or availability of food, and it probably saved lives. Sweden passed the same restrictions in 2008.
As more consumers learned the dangers of trans fats, many of Kraft’s competitors chose voluntarily to remove partially hydrogenated vegetable oil from their ingredients. Kraft has not. Kraft still chooses to manufacture food with high trans fat content, often labeling it “wholesome” or “sensible.”
Further Reading: In her 2009 article, “Safer Fats for Healthier Hearts: The Case for Eliminating Dietary Artificial Trans Fat Intake,” former director of the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr. Julie Gerberding argues that the FDA should ban all artificial trans fats.
Kraft Targets Families and Children
Despite the dangers of eating trans fats, Kraft markets its products to children and their parents. Teddy Grahams packaging claims the sugary snacks “help support kids growth and development” because they are a good source of calcium, iron, and zinc. Kraft hopes that such bluster will distract busy parents from the list of ingredients, which includes “partially hydrogenated cottonseed and/or soybean oil,” two common sources of artificial trans fat.
Often, Kraft marketing is designed specifically to push their products into lunch boxes and kids’ school packs. The back panel on Mini Teddy Grahams (see it here) shows the resealable package carried in a child’s backpack for all-day snacking. Inches below, the ingredients list includes harmful trans fat in the form of “partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil.”
Parents should never feed their children artificial trans fats. Yet a side panel (left) claims that Teddy Grahams are a “fun, wholesome choice for your family,” and a different version of the same packaging says, “Your kids will like them because of the playful, bite-sized bear shapes.” Kraft is selling coronary heart disease baked into bite-sized bears for kids.
Kraft in Court
In February 2010, two California consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Kraft Foods Inc., alleging that Kraft falsely advertised its snacks as healthy. The complaint in the case, Red et al v. Kraft, concerns six products in particular: Ritz Crackers, Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid Grahams, Saltines, Ginger Snaps, and Vegetable Thins. All six contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, and all six make deceptive health claims.
Two years later, this case is still ongoing, and Kraft still makes its products with trans fats.