Crisco introduces zero trans fat shortening

Crisco is getting a new formula after 95 years that nearly eliminates artery-clogging trans fats.

Crisco is getting a new formula after 95 years that nearly eliminates artery-clogging trans fats.

J.M. Smucker Co., the largest U.S. producer of jams and jellies, has reformulated its line of Crisco shortening products to contain zero grams of trans fat per serving.

"The performance is the same for those tried and true family recipes that people have come to rely on Crisco for," Smucker spokeswoman Maribeth Badertscher said on Wednesday.

Doctors say trans fats — listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil — can raise bad cholesterol and lower healthy cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Smucker's move comes as an increasing number of food makers have been lowering or eliminating trans fat from products. In December, New York became the first U.S. city to ban trans fat at restaurants and fast-food establishments.

In June 2006, Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada chaired a joint task force on the issue of trans fat. The task force noted that 22 per cent of the average person's trans fat intake is provided by foods consumed away from home, usually in fast-food restaurants.

Small amount in product

Crisco still has a small amount of artificial trans fat, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows any product with less than 0.5 grams trans fat per serving to list zero grams of trans fat in its nutrition facts. Badertscher said the new Crisco formula is well below the FDA guidelines.

Introduced in 1911, Crisco was the first shortening product made entirely of vegetable oil and made its reputation on having lower saturated fat levels than butter, coconut oil, palm oil or lard, she said.

The company introduced a zero grams trans fat formula in 2004 sold in a green can. That formula, which used sunflower oil and was more expensive, has been discontinued.

The new formula of Crisco uses less partially hydrogenated cottonseed and soybean oils and more fully hydrogenated cottonseed oil — which contains no trans fat.

Saturated fats not increased

Hydrogenated oils are what gives shortening its semisolid consistency and high performance cooking attributes, company officials said. The company placed an emphasis on reducing the trans fat content without increasing saturated fats, Badertscher said.

That's a positive, said Lisa Cimperman, clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

"It is an improvement from the standpoint that we know reducing the amount of trans fat you take in can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease," Cimperman said.

She warned, however, not to believe that anything with zero grams trans fat should be consumed in large quantities.

"What do you use Crisco for — to bake cookies?" she said. "This whole trans fat issue is not the end all be all of good nutrition."

Other food makers that have recently removed or lowered trans fat include Campbell Soup Co., which is working to revise some varieties of Chunky soup and SpaghettiOs with meatballs. Kraft Foods Inc. has removed trans fats from Triscuits and Oreos.