"Justifications" for partially-hydrogenated oils

food and nutrition, happy body

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to the corporate headquarters of health-food-oriented “Trader Joe’s” to express concern about the prominence of partially-hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in their offerings. As you may know, partially-hydrogenated oils have been resoundingly implicated in accelerating heart disease (it’s basically like injecting cement into your blood vessels), and high fructose corn syrup has been widely acknowledged as significantly contributing to weight gain (moreso than other sweeteners).

I received a thoughtful and interesting snail mail letter in reply to my concerns, which read in part:

Some of our cereals and cookies contain partially hydrogenated oils for two specific reasons: texture and taste. Foods that are [sic] do not use these oils do not cook up as crisp and crunchy (as is the case with chips and cereals) and do not bind together as well (cookies crumble quite easily without it). These oils aid in making the product more shelf-stable. Also, the flavor and mouth feel would be significantly changed (we’ve tried to reformulate some of our products without partially hydrogenated oils, but they have always sold poorly). We do try to use alternative formulations where we can and are always looking for new recipes that do not include these oils.

Unfortunately, she didn’t address my issue of high-fructose corn syrup, but oh well.

I do find it interesting that perhaps there’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation here. I’m guessing that if more consumers were aware of just how nasty partially-hydrogenated oils are, they’d buy fewer products that contain these oils… and perhaps buy more products without them. This, in turn, would encourage the food industry to come up with more healthy cookie and cereal recipes (though frankly, I’ve tasted plenty of cookies and cereals that seem delicious WITHOUT any hydrogenated oils!)

In the meantime, I hope you, my humble readers, will do some research on the evils of partially-hydrogenated oils and will put your money where your heart is ;-).

1 comment… add one
  • sibylle May 22, 2004

    What a disappointing reply from TJs – from them I would have expected more than such a lame boilerplate. You’re right, in the meantime it’s up to us to research what we eat. I only recently started paying attention to high-fructose corn syrup, partially-hydrogenated oils and such, and it’s pretty mind-boggling – this stuff is everywhere! (Just the other day I went to the store to pick up some sandwich bread and could not find *one* that didn’t contain hfcp. Bread! Blech.) At least here in SF we have a few more choices than in other parts of the country…

What do you think?