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Artificial Trans Fats Unacceptable at Whole Foods Market Since 2003

No Artificial Trans Fats Since 2003Want to avoid artificial trans fats? Shopping with us makes it easy because Whole Foods Market removed these unhealthy fats from all the food products we sell back in 2003.

And ten years later, the Food and Drug Association finally came to the same conclusion, announcing their plans to banish trans fats from our food supply. Their announcement has rattled the manufacturers of the remaining vestiges of artificial trans-fat-containing food and snack products still on the market.

While you won’t find these products in our Whole Foods Market stores, they are in many other grocery and convenience stores as well as in restaurants throughout the country. Listed in ingredient labels as “partially hydrogenated oil” — the formal name for artificial trans fats, it can be found currently in many familiar items such as coffee creamers, canned frostings, microwave popcorn, chewy candies, cookies, crackers, and cakes.

We sometimes get questions about the qualifier “artificial” when we talk about trans fats. That’s because naturally occurring trans fats can be found in small quantities in meat and dairy products as the result of a natural process in which microbes in the stomachs of ruminant animals transform unsaturated fatty acids into trans fats. As the chemical structure and location of naturally occurring trans fat bonds in the molecule are different from that of artificial trans fats, it is generally considered that the naturally-occurring trans fats both metabolize in the body differently and are less harmful.

But the manufacture of artificially created trans-fats is not a new concept; it was first developed in 1905 as an inexpensive alternative to butter and lard, transforming liquid vegetable oils into fats that are more solid at room temperature by heating the oils under pressure while adding hydrogen gas. Manufacturers like these “partially hydrogenated fats” because they are inexpensive, emulate the consistency and “mouth-feel” of butter and lard, and make the product more resilient to rancidity, thus extending their product’s shelf life.

And, the development of non-animal-based hydrogenated fats to make margarine, along with the crackers, cookies, cakes and the like made from it, was also a big draw for vegans and many vegetarians. By popular demand, such items had been available since the early days of natural food stores, coops and restaurants.

Partially hydrogenated oils got another boost in the 1990s when informational campaigns touting the hazardous effects of saturated fats were in vogue, prompting many manufacturers to switch from butter, lard and tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil to using partially hydrogenated fats.

However, inklings that there was a shadow side of artificial trans fats began with news of research done in 1990 by Dutch scientists when they claimed these partially hydrogenated fats not only raised “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol but also reduced the otherwise protective “good” high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—something even saturated fat didn’t do. 

Complaints and concerns from industry trade groups, nutritionists and government agencies initiated numerous studies over the years to either refute or support these early results. By 2002, in their “Letter Report on Dietary Reference Intakes for Trans-Fatty Acids,” the U.S. National Academy of Sciences recommended that intake of artificial trans fats should be zero — a decision based on the undeniable relationship between trans fat intake and increased risk of coronary heart disease.

In the meantime, we at Whole Foods Market kept close watch on the issue. While the government was not making a definitive stand concerning artificial trans fats, we always seek to set our quality standards to err on the side of what’s best for our customers. So in early 2002 we made the decision to move forward with eliminating hydrogenated oil products from our stores by mid-2003.

The next 18 months was a flurry of work with manufacturers of margarine, shortening, cookies, crackers, ice cream, cakes, etc., encouraging them to develop non-hydrogenated oil replacement products so that our customers who wanted non-animal fat-based product still had plenty of options. The enthusiasm and partnership of our suppliers with us to take on the tough challenge to create good tasting alternatives was very much appreciated, not only by us at Whole Foods Market but ultimately by our customers, as well.

In fact, the elimination of artificial trans fats is emblematic of how we develop our quality standards at Whole Foods Market. Keeping current as much as possible as new information emerges, listening to our customers, working with our suppliers to create new products and alternative production methods that help support your well-being and our environment — it is all a part of our dedication to helping you make informed choices and providing you with the highest quality foods available.

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a says …

What about palm oil, the plantations for which destroy forests and wildlife, including the critically endangered orangutan?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@A - Our product developers have always included sustainability as one of the many criteria they use to evaluate and develop 365 Everyday Value and Whole Foods Market brand products. In our 365 Everyday Value and Whole Foods Market brand products we only use palm oil from sources that have been certified as sustainable by the Institute for Marketecology (IMO). IMO is a highly regarded international certification agency and our partnership with them adds an extra layer of assurance that the palm oil in our products is responsibly and sustainably sourced.

Zach says …

I love you guys.

a customer says …

Whole Foods does not seem to be as interested in healthy products as they advertise. If they were, just for one big example, why would they put canola oil into most of their production made food products - its a known fact all canola is GMO even if it says its organic. It is impossible to find canola oil that is no longer GMO. Guess its a really cheap to use oil, that's why.

drpowe says …

Starting with its infused MCT oil and Ramon Seed blend,what started as a vision for health and great taste… ended with a coffee so delicious, you simply can't get enough. Please see if it is healthy enough for Whole Foods. https://montavida.com/?RIN=L565276

Sandra Gore says …

Please educate yourselves on Omega 6 oils which includes canola oil which you use in almost everything that is made in your deli. Try Dr. Russell Blaylock first but it is not hard to find info on the evil of canola oil. Can't buy the scallopini chicken anymore. It was delicious!! Please give explanation on why you choose to use canola oil. Thank you Sandra Gore

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@SANDRA - We use canola oil in many of our Prepared Foods recipes because it is very versatile. Canola is fairly heat stable, so it is suitable for all types of cooking and it has a neutral flavor, making it suitable for all kinds of dishes. We use non-GMO canola oil in all of our Prepared Foods.

ghazala says …

Your store really helped me learn about the food, and food sources and how to eat healthier and smarter.

Rachel says …

Why are hydrogenated oils on the unacceptable foods list? It is only PARTIAL hydrogenation of oils that creates trans fats. Full hydrogenation creates fully saturated fats and no trans fatty acids. Canola oil is full of Omega 6 and polyunsaturates which are also dangerous yet these are not considered unsafe. Please explain?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RACHEL - The majority of trans fats in the food supply are chemically altered, man made fats known as hydrogenated oils. The hydrogenation process transforms vegetable oils from their natural liquid state into solid fats by heating them under pressure while adding hydrogen atoms. The result is a fat with a chemical configuration that is not found in nature–one that is rich in trans fatty acids. Some scientists speculate that the body cannot use trans fatty acids in the same way as natural fats. Canola oil that has not been intentionally treated to contain trans fatty acids will not have significant amounts of trans fats. In order to form trans fatty acids commercially, oils are hydrogenated through a process where a catalyst, heat, pressure and the presence of hydrogen are necessary. We believe canola oil is a safe and wholesome food and, therefore, will continue to sell it in our stores.

Rachel says …

@Nikki thank for your response on Canola oil. Agreed that this is naturally trans-fat free. My question still remains however, why both partially hydrogenated AND fully hydrogenated oils are on the banned list? Fully hydrogenated fats are trans-fat free. If trans-fats are the issue (which they should be) why are products which are totally trans-fat free, that may contain a percentage of hydrogenated fats, completely banned? Thank you in advance

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@RACHEL - I am unable to find any information that fully hydrogenated oils are trans fat free. If you have any literature or studies you could pass along that would be great as I can send it over to our Quality Standards team. At this time, trans-fat-containing hydrogenated fats do not meet our quality standards but we have not banned trans fats since they can be naturally occurring.

thomas weir says …

Dear WFM do you have any products which help dispose of your waste cooking oil items.As you are aware, regional water companies consider the disposal of culinary waste oil products down the kitchen drain a hazard. does such an item exist in your product range, if not ,would you consider sourcing and bringing such a product to market to coincide with your 'Green' credentials gree

customer.. says …

Maybe Whole foods still hasn't got the memo that canola oils (shortening) are bad if not worse than transfats. Recently bought their inedible brownies and pound cake. Even the sugar bowl bakery brownies i buy from costco is better with all natural ingredients.