PAHO plans to remove trans fatty acids from industrial food production

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has agreed to eliminate trans fatty acids (TFAs) from industrial food production by 2025 to reduce cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease was currently the leading cause of death in the Western hemisphere, PAHO said on 3 October.

PAHO director Carissa Etienne said to eliminate trans fats, “voluntary measures are not enough. Regulatory measures must be applied in order to protect all populations”.

The PAHO plan proposed three options to eliminate industrial TFAs: a ban on using partially hydrogenated oil; a mandatory limit of 2% on industrially-produced TFAs as a proportion of total fat content in all food products; or a combination of the two measures.

“Sales of processed and ultra-processed products, which are the main sources of trans fats, are increasing by 3.1% each year in the Americas, so this action plan is timely and urgent,” said the director of non-communicable diseases and mental health at PAHO, Anselm Hennis.

The plan also highlighted the need to adopt policies on food labelling to raise awareness of the harmful effects of TFAs and the health benefits of eliminating them from industrial production.

According to the World Health Organization recommendations, trans fats intake should be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake. This translates to less than 2.2g per day as part of a 2,000 calorie diet.

PAHO said that evidence showed that diets rich in trans fats increased the risk of heart disease by 21% and the risk of death by 28%.

In 2008, public health authorities and food and cooking oil industry representatives signed the Trans fat Free Americas: Declaration of Rio de Janeiro, in which they expressed a commitment to eliminating industrial TFAs. However, trans fats were still used in at least 27 of 35 PAHO member states, the organisation said.

Countries that had restricted or eliminated trans fats since the agreement were Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, USA and Uruguay.

Currently, Bolivia was developing regulations on trans fats and Brazil and Paraguay were at an advanced stage of a similar process, PAHO said.