The European Parliament (EP) voted overwhelmingly on 25 October for an EU limit on industrially-produced trans fat.
For more than a year, major food producers such as Mars, Kellogg’s, Nestlé and Mondelēz, have urged industrial trans fatty acids (TFAs) to be limited to 2g per 100g and the EP’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) backed the limit on 29 September (see News, OFI November/December 2016).
According to foodnavigator.com, EP members had become increasingly frustrated by a lack of progress from the European Commission (EC) on the issue.
Commissioner for health and food safety Vyetnis Andruikaitis said the EC had looked at policy options including a limit on industrial trans fats, mandatory labelling on partially hydrogenated oils – the main source of industrial trans fats in processed foods – and self-regulatory measures.
But the ENVI had said that lack of awareness among consumers made mandatory TFA labelling an ineffective tool to reduce intake among European citizens.
Andruikaitis said in the foodnavigator report that the EC was assessing whether a turn away from industrial trans fat could push manufacturers to use alternatives that were less environmentally sustainable.
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 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).
In Europe, several countries including Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Hungary and Norway have set limits of 2g per 100g of fat or oil.
FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) has backed a 2% limit but said that if this became a legislative limit, rather than a recommendation, then the current obligation to label full/partial hydrogenation should be removed as the labelling would become redundant.
“Evidence indicates that consumers do not understand the difference between full or partial hydrogenation and ignore the fact that full hydrogenation leads to very low levels of TFAs, contrary to partial hydrogenation.
“It should be noted that a total ban of industrial trans fats is not realistic as all refined vegetable oils and fats contain small unavoidable amounts of TFA, well below 2%.”