Health Canada, Canada’s governmental health department, has introduced a regulatory proposal to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHOs), the main source of industrially produced trans fats in food.

According to a department statement released on 7 April, prohibiting PHOs in all foods sold in Canada represented a “significant and final step” in Health Canada’s efforts to reduce trans fats in the Canadian food supply to the lowest possible level to promote greater national health.

The move follows the October 2016 launch of Healthy Eating Strategy by Canada’s Minister of Health Jane Philpott, itself based on a mandate letter sent to Philpott in 2015.

“Through the Health Eating Strategy, our government is working to make the healthier choice the easier choice. By prohibiting PHOs, we are removing the largest source of industrial trans fats from Canada’s food supply and helping reduce the risk of heart disease,” she said in a statement.

Under the strategy, trans fats must already be reported in the nutritional facts table on product labels, making claims of being ‘trans fat free’ is regulated and voluntary programmes to reduce the use of trans fats have been set up.

While Health Canada said this approach had proven successful, some foods still contained industrially produced trans fats and it now intended to add them to Part 1 of the Canadian List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods.

The first part of the list declares substances that will, at any concentration, result in the food being considered adulterated, while the second part lists the maximum levels of certain substances allowed in food without it receiving the adulterated label.

By Health Canada’s definition, PHOs in the list would be defined as fats and oils that have not been hydrogenated to complete or near complete saturation and have an iodine value greater than 4.

This definition would apply to PHOs used in foods intended for human consumption and PHOs added to foods for minor use applications or technical purposes, such as processing aids and pan release agents.

If the regulation is introduced, Canadian producers would have a 12-month transitory period to switch their production away from using trans fats, re-label products and sell existing stock.

A notice of proposal detailing the legislation has been posted to seek comments from Canadians and will remain open until 21 June 2017.

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fatty acid found naturally in food from ruminant animals, such as milk and beef, and which can also be industrially produced.

Consumption of trans fats has been linked to an increase in the risk of coronary heart disease and major authoritative health bodies, such as the World Health Organization and the Institute of Medicine, have recommended limiting their consumption to a maximum of 1% of total daily energy intake.