‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Won’t Someone Think of the Illiterate Shopper?

A Californian woman is suing Nestle, the company who makes California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) frozen pizzas. Why? Because they contain trans fat, a piece of information displayed on the back of the box. 

Many states in the US have, in recent years, proposed or enacted bans on trans fat. Californian restaurants and bakeries are prohibited from using trans fats. CPK is a restaurant, however, their frozen meals in question are available in supermarkets. They are not served or distributed by CPK. Therefore, it may be unethical for CPK to have trans fat in a product bearing their name, but it is not illegal.

What’s the deal with trans fat? They are bad news for your health. They increase your ‘bad’ cholesterol and decrease your ‘good’ cholesterol. Over time, this promotes heart disease. Trans fat occurs naturally in trace amounts in dairy and meat. However, these are not the foods to avoid. 

Many processed foods (store bought and packaged cakes, pastries, cookies, crackers etc and deep fried foods) contain trans fat that are not naturally occurring. Instead are added to enhance taste and increase shelf life. Through a process called hydrogenation, liquid fats are turned solid to make them more stable. When added to foods, they increase the time packaged foods can sit around without spoiling: extending their shelf life. 

Figure 1: US nutrition label and
     ingredients list
If you live in the US, like this woman, you can simply check the ingredients list for the presence of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils (see figure 1).

Trans fats are regulated (or not) to varying degrees globally. Denmark became the first country, in 2003, to pass laws regulating the sale of foods containing trans fat. In 2008, Switzerland followed Denmark’s path. Australia is yet to legislate on the issue, although fast food outlets were ‘asked’ to reduce their use of trans fats. Australian ingredient lists are not required to list hydrogenation of oils, nor is it mandatory to list trans fats on the Nutrition Information Panel (Figure 2). In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the USA began requiring trans fat labeling on the Nutrition Facts Panel of foods. However, if there is <0.5g of trans fat ‘per serve’ it can be listed as 0g, but that’s another article (and it’s on the radar).

Figure 2: Typical Aust nutrition label and ingredients list
What does it boil down to? Take an extra minute to glance at the ingredients list and the nutrition panel… it might save you the hassle of filing a $5M lawsuit. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in some store bought pizza every now and then, but it’s a good idea to put less of it in your pie hole.


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