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Since You Asked: Unsafe at any serving size

I've been seeing lots of items at the grocery store that say they have "0 Grams of Trans Fats," but then I see on the ingredients that they have hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils listed.

Doesn't that mean they DO have trans fats? What gives?

— Clare B., Medford

Life's short, Clare, don't ask questions — just buy the cookies!

What we have here is what's called a loophole. When all the bad news about trans fats came out in the last couple of years, naturally consumers started shying away from foods that contained them.

A LOT of products use those oils because they make them "better" (taste, "mouth-feel," etc.) and more durable on store shelves.

In something of a compromise, it seems, the federal government allows manufacturers to claim "Zero Grams Trans Fats" when the quantity is a half gram or less per serving.

The key is "per serving." For many cookie products, a serving is two cookies ... TWO COOKIES! When was the last time you stopped at two cookies? We're just getting started at two!

There's the problem with this labeling. If you want to avoid trans fats, you now have to read the labels of every product you buy (a good idea anyway).

If the ingredient list has "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated," it has trans fats, no matter what the flashy graphics say on the front of the package.

Ironically, the big label splash declaring "Zero Grams Trans Fats" usually means the product does have trans fats.

To be fair, manufacturers have reduced the amount of trans fats in most products. But most health experts advise they are unadvisable at any serving size.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. The volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.