Improvements to the techniques used to hydrogenate vegetable oils could soon fill store shelves with packaged foods containing reduced quantities of unhealthful trans fats.
Manufacturers use the process of hydrogenation to make vegetable oils more solid at room temperature and thus suitable for use in margarines, shortenings, and commercial baked goods. However, hydrogenation creates unnatural trans fats that have unhealthy effects on cholesterol concentrations in the blood (see Stronger Proof That Trans Fats Are Bad).
Beginning next Jan. 1, food companies must label products to reveal their trans fat content (see No Hiding Most Trans Fats), and some companies have already begun doing so. The Food and Drug Administration permits claims of zero trans fats on products containing less than half a gram of those fats per serving.