Trans fat update: bureaucracy + marketing = bad food.

Okay, get this: Starbucks is now using margarine instead of butter in baked goods so they can label them “trans fat free.” No, I didn’t mix that up.

You see, “trans” just refers to the shape of the fat molecule. And it turns out that nasty partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (the stuff that New York City banned) isn’t the only fat that’s shaped this way. Butter and other animal fats naturally contain some “trans” fat molecules. The thing is, the naturally occurring trans fats don’t seem to be harmful. In fact, it seems likely they’re beneficial.

But guess what? The FDA doesn’t distinguish between the two kinds of trans fat. So even though all the research suggests that artificial trans fat is the thing to worry about, on an FDA-mandated food label, trans fat is trans fat is trans fat.

So Starbucks sees trans fat hysteria brewing. And Starbucks wants to have nice pretty “trans fat free” labels so people will feel cozy and happy and buy their processed food. The result? Croissants made with palm oil instead of butter. Ridiculous.

(The NY Times article on this is good, but you have to pay to get it from the archives.)

Related post: Trans fat-free industrial food is still bad food.


  1. Ananda said,

    March 16, 2007 @ 2:06 pm

    I’m confused. Are they going to use margarine or palm oil? I don’t think palm oil is all that bad. Margarine on the other hand I feel is very bad and I won’t eat it.
    I wish the FDA would take notice of the difference between fake and natural, it seems that attidute is all to prevalent. Fake perfume, fake fingernails, fake medicines, fake food, fake lovers, fake fake fake. Grr.
    Thanks for keeping us in the know!

  2. crabappleherbs said,

    March 16, 2007 @ 3:22 pm

    Sorry for the confusion, Ananda. The answer is both. They’re using whatever they can get their hands on that doesn’t register as trans fat — be it fully hydrogenated shortening (“trans-free margarine”) or things like palm oil. (And I don’t mind palm oil either. But in a croissant? Absurd.)

    Here’s a quote from the Times article:

    The Schwartz Bros. bakery has been providing Starbucks
    with baked goods in the Northwest since Starbucks had
    only 13 stores. Now, bakeries in Seattle and Portland
    provide the pastries to about 600 Starbucks outlets.

    ”We’ve gone back and replaced all of the nice, good
    butter with supposedly trans fat-free margarine,”
    said Rick Doyle, the Schwartz regional manager. ”The
    hardest one for us was the croissant. We replaced
    butter with palm oil. From my perspective it’s not a
    croissant any more. It’s lost all its lamination and

  3. Ananda said,

    March 16, 2007 @ 3:38 pm

    Oh sheesh. Well, I guess I won’t be having any more banana nut loafs or uncroissants. They are way overpriced anyway. I’ll jusk bake at home 🙂
    Thanks for the clarification!


  4. The Herbwife’s Kitchen » Trans fat-free industrial food is still bad food. said,

    March 16, 2007 @ 7:59 pm

    […] post: Trans fat update: bureaucracy + marketing = bad food. Bookmark […]

  5. kathleen said,

    April 10, 2007 @ 9:21 am

    Bah. I still like butter and I will continue to use it. But what about ghee? Aside from a higher cooking temp, is there any benefit to including that in the diet?

  6. crabappleherbs said,

    April 11, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    Good grassfed ghee has all the same benefits as butter: vitamins, healthy fats, etc. But you can keep it indefinitely at room temperature and like you said, you can cook it at higher temperatures. Ayurvedic medicine and cooking use ghee as a centerpiece. They can’t seem to say enough good things about it.

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