The Aug. 16 editorial "Trans Fat Nation" said "McDonald's has also moved to modify its French fry recipe to reduce, though not eliminate, the trans fat content." This is false.

In September 2002 McDonald's, in a publicity blitz, proclaimed that it was taking a "major step" toward eliminating trans fats from the oil it uses for french fries, hash browns, chicken and fish. It promised to complete the change by early 2003. But in February 2003 McDonald's changed its mind -- quietly -- in a 30-word news release that went almost unnoticed, as the editorial showed.

The life span of Americans is dropping. As a doctor, I'm convinced that trans fats in franchise restaurant food, school and employee cafeteria food, and many items in grocery stores are the major culprit.

Brochures and Web sites and labels often do not educate even the educated. They only shift responsibility for unhealthy ingredients to consumers.

Education isn't enough. Trans fats should be treated like lead, asbestos or smoking. They are truly more lethal because millions upon millions consume them.

VINOD K. SETH

Bismarck, N.D.

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The New York City health department should be applauded for encouraging restaurants and food manufacturers to reduce trans fats in their products.

An even bigger, but more easily preventable, public health problem than trans fats is excess sodium. Excess sodium consumption kills an estimated 150,000 Americans each year and is one of the main reasons that 65 million Americans have hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

Almost all of this excess sodium comes from salt added to processed and restaurant foods, largely without consumers' knowledge or consent. This makes it difficult to reduce salt consumption, even for those who are motivated. The average American consumes eight times the amount of salt needed each day.

Therefore, in 2002 the American Public Health Association adopted a resolution calling for a 50 percent reduction in sodium in processed and restaurant foods.

Representatives of 45 professional, voluntary and federal agencies who advise the National Institutes of Health on hypertension prevention and control (of which I am one) unanimously endorsed this resolution. The new Agriculture Department dietary guidelines also call for major reductions in sodium intake.

Americans should demand more lower salt food products and meals. While some things in life may need an extra grain of salt, our food supply is not one of them.

STEPHEN HAVAS

Timonium

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The editorial on trans fats made no mention of their use in commercial peanut butter. The wholesome peanut oil is extracted and replaced with trans fats to produce a smoother texture and emulsification at room temperature. Thus, this delicious spread no longer "sticks to the roof of your mouth" and keeps longer at room temperature without the need for mixing in the separated peanut oil.

So, is this altered peanut butter sold at greater cost? No, it's lots cheaper. And herein lies the real travesty. Only through searching for the "natural," more expensive peanut butter can one avoid the trans fat. The "low fat" commercial spread does not indicate the absence of trans fats, so more distinct labeling should be required.

And if the "stickiness" of natural peanut butter must be avoided, try slicing an apple into your peanut butter sandwich -- it's delicious!

EDWARD ABRAMIC

Washington