Ban on trans fats: too little, too late

At the end of the day, a donut is still a donut, a cookie is still a cookie and a French fry is still a French fry -- and whether they have trans fats or not, they're going to be bad for your health.

So while everyone's in a hurry to give the FDA kudos for its move to start a trans-fat ban, I'm not about to stand up and cheer. If anything, I think predictions the ban will ultimately prevent 20,000 heart attacks and save 7,000 lives per year are wildly optimistic.

After all, these dangerous fats are usually found in processed foods -- junk foods like the donuts, cookies and French fries I just mentioned -- and getting rid of the trans fats isn't going to make them much better.

But even if you believe the trans-fat ban will help make people just a little bit healthier, there are two other problems here.

First, the trans fat ban doesn't take effect right away -- and the FDA hasn't even announced a timeline for it yet.

You can bet it'll be a while before it kicks in fully.

And second, there's a loophole big enough to drive a donut truck through -- because the current FDA rules on "trans fat free" products still allow for deadly amounts of these fats.

Food makers are allowed to round half a gram of trans fats or less down to zero -- and that's per serving, not per package. Eat just four servings of these "hidden" trans fats per day (not difficult, since serving sizes are often unrealistically small), and you've already hit the 2-gram daily limit recommended for most people without even knowing it.

And as of right now, this loophole will continue to exist even after the ban takes effect.

There's one quick and easy way to tell whether your foods contain these hidden trans fats, and that's to read the fine print on the ingredients panel. Anything "partially hydrogenated" is almost certainly going to contain at least a small amount of trans fats.

And if you want an even simpler way to choose healthy foods, choose foods without any labels at all -- whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats, ideally fresh, organic and local.