Hospital Food with Trans Fat

Essay by dotaCollege, UndergraduateB, June 2009

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Trans fatty acids are fats that form when liquid vegetable oils are processed or hydrogenated. This type of fats increases bad cholesterol and decrease food cholesterol in the body. In a recent investigation by the Center for Science in the Public interest in Washington DC, it was found that the cafeterias at some of the nation’s top hospitals have been serving French fries that contain trans fat. The cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture dishes out fries cooked in partially hydrogenated oil that contains transfats, even though they have guidelines that recommend limiting consumptions of such fats as possible. This can be considered a social obesity and health hazard issue. The public interest center’s medical students bought two orders of French fries from leading medical centers, children’s hospitals and three government agencies in October, November and December of last year. These fries were sent to laboratories for analysis. Several hospitals such as UCLA Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center and University of Michigan Health System served fries with an average of 4-6 grams of trans fats in a 6 ounce serving.

This was exceptionally close to the 8 grams found in a 6 ounce serving of McDonald’s fries. Other hospitals such as Children’s Medical Center Dallas and Children’s Hospital Boston offered fries that had 2 grams or less of trans fat. This indicates that the fries were pre-fried in partially hydrogenated oil by the manufacturer, and then deep fried in non-hydrogenated oil by the hospital’s cafeteria staff, analysis’s says. According to Walter Willett, chairman of nutrition department at Harvard School of Public Health, “Five to 6 grams of trans fat is a huge amount just from one serving.” The oil that food services use is usually used no only for fries, but other foods such as fish and chicken. The high level of trans fat probably can be seen in other foods as well due to multiple usage of the same oil.

This report of hospital serving food with excessive amounts of trans fat appears to be having immediate impact. “The public interest raised a good point, so we are working with out food vendor to remove trans fats from all our menu items as soon as possible,” says Krista Hopson, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan Health System. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will begin serving fries cooked in trans fat free canola oil. This change was planned months ago, but the start date was moved up because of this analysis. Some hospitals as well have switched their oils since this study was done. Analyst’s recommend that cafeterias switch to cooking in heart-healthier oils such as liquid canola, soy or peanut and buy fries that have been precooked in healthier oils.

This article is strictly based on laboratory experiments and data. Facts that each hospital and department’s fries contain a certain amount of trans fats per serving were made into a chart. From reading the article, I was able to reconfirm the theory that a great portion of obesity in the U.S. is caused by social issues. It surprised me that the nation’s top hospitals are serving food that isn’t any healthier than McDonald’s food. I will think twice next time I consider hospital food “healthy”.

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