The UK’s top retailers have committed to eliminate industrially added trans fats from all their own brand lines.

Retailers comprising the British Retail Consortium (BRC), including Asda, Boots, Co-Op, Iceland, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, said the decision was “cutting through legislative impotence arising from a conflict of EU health and trade objectives”. The commitment will be praised in an Early Day Motion to be published in the House of Commons today (31 January), the BRC said.

The consortium has also questioned a “contradictory move” by the European Commission for reportedly taking legal action against the Government of Denmark for restricting trans fats in food products there, despite saying it wants retailers to take such measures.

Trans fats occur naturally in some foods, but are added to items such as bakery and dairy products in processes to extend shelf life and improve texture.

Andrew Opie, BRC food policy director said: “With the Commission’s laudable objectives on healthy food and free trade in conflict, the UK Government risks being embarrassed by its own legislative impotence. But, by acting voluntarily, BRC members are showing responsible retailers can cut through to achieve major change faster than any legislation.

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“This is the latest in a string of healthy food initiatives and shows BRC members, responding to customer concerns, are willingly delivering a scale and pace of change way beyond anything retailers or manufacturers are doing anywhere else in Europe.”

The BRC said that previous moves by UK retailers to promote healthier lifestyles included an ongoing programme of reformulation of products, development of healthily balanced ranges and steps forward in labelling and communication