Trans Fatty Acids and Health : a Review of Health Hazards and Existing Legislation

14-11-2008

Trans fats are found in commercial baked goods, fried foods, frozen foods, margarines, red meat and dairy products. There is a considerable body of scientific evidence that associates their ingestion with cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, blindness, cancer and others. In view of this evidence, measures have to be taken to reduce their intake. Policies that restrict and regulate their intake have been implemented in Denmark and Switzerland and some cities and states in the US have adopted regulatory approaches. In the Netherlands and the UK, industry has adopted voluntary measures. Canada and the US have adopted mandatory labelling requirements, which brings up issues related to equity, since the capacity of individuals to interpret labels and make purchasing choices relates to their socio-economic status, particularly in a context where foods free of industrial trans fats may be more expensive. In contrast, the ban in Denmark has eliminated them from all food products, apparently with negligible effects on the economic situation of the food manufacturing and restaurant industry. Based upon the evidence of negative health impacts of industrial trans fats and the success of the ban in various locations, this study recommends that a ban be considered at EU level.

Trans fats are found in commercial baked goods, fried foods, frozen foods, margarines, red meat and dairy products. There is a considerable body of scientific evidence that associates their ingestion with cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes, blindness, cancer and others. In view of this evidence, measures have to be taken to reduce their intake. Policies that restrict and regulate their intake have been implemented in Denmark and Switzerland and some cities and states in the US have adopted regulatory approaches. In the Netherlands and the UK, industry has adopted voluntary measures. Canada and the US have adopted mandatory labelling requirements, which brings up issues related to equity, since the capacity of individuals to interpret labels and make purchasing choices relates to their socio-economic status, particularly in a context where foods free of industrial trans fats may be more expensive. In contrast, the ban in Denmark has eliminated them from all food products, apparently with negligible effects on the economic situation of the food manufacturing and restaurant industry. Based upon the evidence of negative health impacts of industrial trans fats and the success of the ban in various locations, this study recommends that a ban be considered at EU level.

Autorzy zewnętrzni

Alexandra Krettek, Stefan Thorpenberg and Göran Bondjers (Nordic School of Public Health through MILIEU Ltd., Brussels, Belgium)