Initially, critics of biotech crops blamed the products for everything from the demise of monarch butterflies to human health hazards. Nevertheless, their adoption worldwide is growing. Experts claim the one-billionth acre of biotech crops was planted somewhere in the northern hemisphere last Spring. Increasingly, GMOs are being praised for their human health benefits. Some varieties of soybeans genetically modified to yield lower amounts of linolenic acid are a good example. The so-called "low linolenic beans" are a key ingredient in some low trans fat foods. And earlier this month, a new labeling law went into effect requiring manufacturers to label the amount of trans fats in their products.
If your New Year's resolution was to cut back on the amount of total fat you consume, you now will be able to keep better track. While the amount of saturated fat has been listed on food labels since 1993, the amount of trans fat just became a mandatory item on nutrition labels January first.
Trans fat -- found in nearly 40 percent of packaged foods -- including vegetable shortenings and many snacks -- are said to raise the LDL or so-called "bad" cholesterol level. Trans fat also is suspected of contributing to diabetes, heart disease and strokes.
Basically, trans fat is created when food manufacturers turn liquid oils into solid fats by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil. Hydrogenation increases the shelf life and stability of food flavors... and is used by many restaurants to fry food.
The government-appointed Dietery Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends limiting consumption of trans fat to about 2 grams per day -- including naturally occurring trans fat in dairy and meat.
Under the Food and Drug Administration's new labeling law, labels also must include "in plain English" eight foods that can trigger some food allergies. Those foods are: wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts, soy, fish and crustaceans like crab and lobster.
The FDA says the eight covered allergens cause 90 percent of the documented food allergy reactions.