Alliance for Potato Research & Education
June 17, 2015 by Maureen Storey, PhD

Correcting the (Pictorial) Record on Trans Fat

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) are no longer generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in foods (1), and food companies have three years to replace them with something else. Accompanying many of the news stories about the FDA determination are images of foods that presumptively contain PHOs and, therefore, also contain some amount of trans fat. That’s where the news stories go awry in their "worth-more-than-1,000-words" pictures.

As a whole, the potato industry ditched PHOs nearly a decade ago, and there are plenty of published peer-reviewed studies to prove it (2-4). Studies by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that potato manufacturers led the way in virtually eliminating the use of PHOs and reducing trans fat by 88% in retail frozen potatoes. This was the fastest and largest reduction in trans fat compared with any other food category (5,6). Most major quick service restaurants also shifted to trans fat-free oils in 2007 (7). In its 2013 request for comments concerning the tentative determination that PHOs were not GRAS, the FDA acknowledged that frozen potato products had already been reformulated to remove PHOs (8).

It’s important that news stories accurately reflect the science in both words and pictures. French fried potatoes removed PHOs long ago, are not a significant source of trans fat and, therefore, should not be the eye-grabbing "centerfold" in this story.


(1) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration. Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils. Federal Register 2015 Jun 17. Available from:

(2) Urban LE, Roberts SB, Fierstein JL, Gary CE, Lichtenstein AH. Temporal Trends in Fast-Food Restaurant Energy, Sodium, Saturated Fat, and Trans Fat Content, United States, 1996-2013. Prev Chronic Dis 2014 Dec 31;11:E229. DOI:

(3) Urban LE, Roberts SB, Fierstein JL, Gary CE, Lichtenstein AH. Sodium, Saturated Fat, and Trans Fat Content per 1,000 Kilocalories: Temporal Trends in Fast-Food Restaurants, United States, 2000-2013. Prev Chronic Dis 2014 Dec 31;11:E228. DOI:

(4) Storey ML, Anderson PA. Changes in Mean Intake of Fatty Acids and Intake of Saturated and Trans Fats from Potatoes: NHANES 2005-2006, 2007-2008, and 2009-2010.  Adv Nutr 2015 May 15;6(3):376S-382S. DOI:

(5) Otite FO, Jacobson MF, Dahmubed A, Mozaffarian D. Trends in Trans Fatty Acids Reformulations of US Supermarket and Brand-Name Foods from 2007 through 2011. Prev Chronic Dis 2013 May 23;10:E85. DOI:

(6) Doell D, Folmer D, Lee H, Honigfort M, Carberry S. Updated Estimate of Trans Fat Intake by the US Population. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess 2012;29(6):861-874. DOI: 

(7) Tyburczy C, Delmonte P, Fardin-Kia AR, Mossoba MM, Kramer JK, Rader JI. Profile of Trans Fatty Acids (FAs) Including Trans Polyunsaturated FAs in Representative Fast Food Samples. J Agric Food Chem 2012 May 9;60(18):4567-4577. DOI:

(8) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration. Tentative Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils; Request for Comments and for Scientific Data and Information. Federal Register 2013 Nov 8;78 FR 67169. Available from: