WHO calling for elimination of trans fats from foods

WHO calling for elimination of trans fats from foods

The World Health Organization (WHO) is attempting to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Today (14 May) it has released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of trans fats and is calling on nations to help it achieve its aim in the next five years.

WHO estimates every year trans-fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats.

Speaking at the launch of the REPLACE initiative in Geneva, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply.

"Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods? The world is now embarking on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, using it as a driver for improved access to healthy food and nutrition. WHO is also using this milestone to work with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats."

It has asked governments to implement six strategic actions to ensure the "prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply.

These are:

- Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.

- Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.

- Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.

- Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.

- Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.

- Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Some governments, including Denmark, have already implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fats a decade ago, following Denmark's lead. 

WHO said action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker.

Industry body The International Food & Beverage Alliance (IFBA) said it supported the initiative.

Secretary-general Rocco Renaldi said: "We welcome this action by the World Health Organization and Resolve.

"Two years ago, IFBA member companies committed to reduce industrially produced trans fat in their products worldwide to nutritionally insignificant levels by the end of 2018. Our progress has been significant - at the end of 2017, on an aggregated basis, we estimate that industrially produced trans fat had been removed from 98.8% of IFBA companies' global product portfolios."

Dirk Jacobs, the deputy director-general of FoodDrinkEurope, the pan-industry trade body representing food manufacturers in the region, took to Twitter to say the sector on the continent was "well on track".

Last week, WHO issued strict guidelines in relation to the amount of saturated fat that should be contained in a healthy diet.

It said adults and children should consume a maximum of 10% of their daily calories in the form of saturated fat and 1% from trans fats to reduce the risk of heart disease.

It said excessive amounts of saturated fat and trans fats should be replaced by polyunsaturated fats, such as fish, canola and olive oils.