Europe Limits Use of Trans Fats in Foods

The move is widely seen as a positive step toward eliminating all trans fats by 2023.
By Paolo DeAndreis
Apr. 5, 2021 11:11 UTC

Foods with an indus­trial trans fat con­tent of more than two per­cent can no longer be placed on the European Union mar­ket, accord­ing to a new reg­u­la­tion from the European Commission.

Trans fats – or trans fatty acids – are unsat­u­rated fats with car­bon-car­bon dou­ble bonds. They are usu­ally a byprod­uct of par­tially hydro­genat­ing veg­etable and fish oils and nat­u­rally occur in food such as dairy and some cow, goat and sheep meat.

Trans fat intake is respon­si­ble for approx­i­mately 500,000 pre­ma­ture deaths from coro­nary heart dis­ease each year around the world.- World Health Organization, 

They are widely rec­og­nized as the most harm­ful type of dietary fat on a per weight basis and their detri­men­tal effect on heart dis­ease is no longer dis­puted,” the European Heart Network (EHN) wrote in a 2015 paper.

According to the Brussels-based orga­ni­za­tion, trans fats increase the risk of heart dis­ease by about 25 per­cent for every two per­cent of energy con­sump­tion that comes from them.

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In other words, every extra gram of trans fatty acids con­sumed per day will increase the risk of heart attack or heart dis­ease by about five per­cent,” the EHN said.

Commission Regulation 2019/649 came into force on April 1 and does not apply to food with nat­u­rally occur­ring trans fats. The new mea­sures will pri­mar­ily affect mar­garine, pack­aged snack foods and pas­tries.

According to the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), the new reg­u­la­tion should be con­sid­ered a first step for the 27-mem­ber bloc. The mea­sure par­tially com­plies with the World Health Organization (WHO) REPLACE ini­tia­tive to elim­i­nate indus­tri­ally-pro­duced trans fats by 2023.

Trans fat intake is respon­si­ble for approx­i­mately 500,000 pre­ma­ture deaths from coro­nary heart dis­ease each year around the world,” the WHO said.

Assitol, the Association of the Italian Olive Oil Industry, said that the new reg­u­la­tion is unlikely to harm the indus­try as most prod­ucts that con­tain olive oil, such as some sea­son­ings and salad dress­ings, are already below the two per­cent limit.

These results are the fruit of the self-reg­u­la­tion code that Assitol has pro­moted within the European Union involv­ing the major pro­duc­ers in the sec­tor,” Giuseppe Allocca, pres­i­dent of the sea­son­ing depart­ment of Assitol, told Il Mattino.

In its plan, the WHO also ded­i­cated a whole chap­ter to trans fats alter­na­tives for food pro­duc­ers. The supra-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion said that olive oil and peanut oil are among the health­i­est choices but are also more expen­sive. The WHO added that high-oleic rape­seed, soy or sun­flower oils are less healthy but more eco­nom­i­cal alter­na­tives.

Several coun­tries in the E.U. have already moved ahead with the reg­u­la­tion to limit the pres­ence of trans fats in the processed food.

Similar ini­tia­tives have been taken in California, Canada, New York, Switzerland and Thailand.

Many coun­tries in Asia and Africa lag behind when it comes to trans fats replace­ment.


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