The World Health Organization’s (WHO) call to ban trans fats from the global food supply by 2023 has received support from the International Food and Beverage Alliance(IFBA).
While trans fats are naturally found in dairy and meat products, they are also generated by industrial processes to produce hard fats from vegetable oils, known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs). Manufacturers use them for their long shelf life, but they are associated with an increase in non-communicable diseases.
A diet high in trans fats, including fried and bakery products, is estimated to cause more than 500,000 deaths every year from cardiovascular disease.
WHO and non-governmental organisation Resolve to Save Lives aim to eliminate the use of these fats by 2023. The IFBA — which brings together 12 leading food and non-alcoholic beverage companies such as Nestlé, Unilever and Danone — hopes to help its members contribute to this goal.
WHO guidelines recommend a maximum of 1% of total energy from trans fat and 10% from saturated fats. Two years ago, IFBA member companies committed to reducing industrially produced trans fat to no more than one gram per 100 grams of product by the end of 2018.
Rocco Renaldi, Secretary-General of IFBA, said, “Our progress has been significant — at the end of 2017, on an aggregated basis, we estimate that industrially produced trans fat had been removed from 98.8% of IFBA companies’ global product portfolios.”
He attributed this success to the fact that companies substituted PHOs with non-PHO solutions, such as using unsaturated fats, without compromising on taste or quality.
IFBA is also working on removing nutritionally negligible amounts of PHOs found in thermal processing, processing aids (release agents), food additives (emulsifiers) and carriers wherever feasible.
WHO has been encouraging the food industry to eliminate trans fatsfor several years, but despite bans proving successful in countries such as Denmark, scepticism has limited the success of policiesin other countries. Perhaps backing from IFBA will encourage others to limit their use of trans fats and help prevent some of the world’s biggest killer diseases.
“We are committed to working in collaboration with governments, civil society and the food and beverage industry to share best practices and call on all food producers in all sectors to join the effort to achieve this public health priority,” said Renaldi.
WHAT IS TRANS FAT?
Trans fat, or trans-unsaturated fatty acids, trans fatty acids, are a type of unsaturated fat that occur in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods, and frying fast food starting in the 1950s.
Trans fat has been shown to consistently be associated, in an intake-dependent way, with increased risk of coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death in Western nations.