Trans Fats – Overview of recent developments

14-03-2016

'Trans fats' or 'trans fatty acids' (TFAs) are a type of unsaturated fatty acids that have been widely used in the food industry since the 1950s. There is now broad scientific consensus that high consumption of trans fats significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), and may also be associated with increased risk of other cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The main dietary source of industrial trans fats are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The World Health Organization argues that the removal of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from the food supply would result in substantial health benefits. After determining in June 2015 that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) were no longer 'generally recognized as safe' for use in human food, the United States Food and Drug Administration requested food manufacturers to remove them from products by June 2018. The European Union does not have legislation regulating the content of trans fats in food products or requiring their labelling. Thus, should a product contain partially hydrogenated oils (and hence, possibly TFAs), its label will indicate this, but it will not indicate the exact amount of trans fats present. Four EU Member States have set legal limits on industrially produced trans fats in foods and there has been growing pressure to establish this as an EU-wide practice. In a report on trans fats published in December 2015, the European Commission concluded that a legal limit for industrial TFA content would be the most effective measure for tackling the problem. Stakeholders have generally welcomed the Commission report, while stressing that thanks to voluntary reformulating efforts by the industry, TFA levels in foods are already quite low.

'Trans fats' or 'trans fatty acids' (TFAs) are a type of unsaturated fatty acids that have been widely used in the food industry since the 1950s. There is now broad scientific consensus that high consumption of trans fats significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), and may also be associated with increased risk of other cardiovascular diseases, obesity and type 2 diabetes. The main dietary source of industrial trans fats are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The World Health Organization argues that the removal of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from the food supply would result in substantial health benefits. After determining in June 2015 that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) were no longer 'generally recognized as safe' for use in human food, the United States Food and Drug Administration requested food manufacturers to remove them from products by June 2018. The European Union does not have legislation regulating the content of trans fats in food products or requiring their labelling. Thus, should a product contain partially hydrogenated oils (and hence, possibly TFAs), its label will indicate this, but it will not indicate the exact amount of trans fats present. Four EU Member States have set legal limits on industrially produced trans fats in foods and there has been growing pressure to establish this as an EU-wide practice. In a report on trans fats published in December 2015, the European Commission concluded that a legal limit for industrial TFA content would be the most effective measure for tackling the problem. Stakeholders have generally welcomed the Commission report, while stressing that thanks to voluntary reformulating efforts by the industry, TFA levels in foods are already quite low.