An EU-wide limit for industrially-produced trans fats in processed foods has been backed by the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI).

The committee adopted a resolution on 29 September backing the limit, saying that lack of awareness among consumers regarding the adverse health impact of trans fatty acids (TFAs) made mandatory TFA labelling an ineffective tool to reduce intake among European citizens.

“We call on the European Commission to propose as soon as possible mandatory limits on industrial TFAs in order to reduce their intake among all population groups,” the resolution said.

The resolution was due to be considered for adoption by the European Parliament at a plenary session later this month, FoodNavigator said.

Natural trans fatty acids (TFAs) can be found in the meat and milk products of ruminant animals (cattle, sheep and goat).

Industrial or artificial TFAs can be found in baked, fried and snack foods and are formed when fats and oils are partially hydrogenated to improve their taste, texture and shelf-life. Industrial TFAs increase our risk of heart disease by increasing the ‘bad’ low density cholesterol in our blood, while also lowering the ‘good’ high density cholesterol.

In June 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration said partially hydrogenated oils – the main source of industrial trans fats in processed foods – were no longer ‘generally recognised as safe’ (GRAS) and gave food manufacturers three years to remove all artificial trans fats from their products (see News, OFI July/August 2015).

And last October, major food producers Mars, Kellogg’s, Nestlé and Mondelēz signed an open letter to the European Commission calling for the amount of industrial TFAs to be limited to 2g per 100g of fat across the EU.

In Europe, several countries including Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Hungary and Norway have set limits of 2g per 100g of fat or oil.

But artificial trans fat remains common in Eastern Europe with a 2012 study showing that Eastern Europeans could be consuming as much as 30g per day, FoodNavigator said.