May 27, 2018

World Health Organization unveils new strategies to fight trans-fat in foods

14 May 2018, 10:36 | Lena Norman

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber

As global awareness grew on trans fats' role in cardiovascular diseases, health officials knew they had to take a stand. Partnerships formed between the agricultural and health ministries, the business and consumer sectors, and academia.The Government's final decision to adopt a mandatory approach helped the country virtually rid its food of industrially-produced trans fats by 2014.

Industrially-produced trans-fatty acids, like margarine and some hardened vegetable fats, are popular among food producers because they are cheap and typically have a long shelf life. World Health Organization estimates that eating trans fats leads to the deaths of more than 500,000 people from heart disease every year.

Nestle' SA is working toward "complete removal of all trans fats" originating from partially hydrogenated oils, a spokeswoman said.

"The International Food and Beverage Alliance - a Geneva group representing food companies including Kellogg Co., General Mills Inc., McDonald's Corp. and Unilever NV - said its members have removed industrially produced trans fat from 98.8% of their global product portfolios".

The WHO, on Monday launched its new REPLACE initiative that provides guidance to countries on the best ways to remove artificial trans fats from foods, hoping to lead to worldwide eradication. "But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food", according to the news release announcing the initiative.

The public health arm of the United Nations said it will urge governments to ban or restrict those fats and replace them with healthier fats and oils.

Asked if World Health Organization was readying for a wider fights against other drivers of noncommunicable diseases, including products like processed sugar, Tedros said the answer was "a big yes".

The agency also called on the government to put in place legislation or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fats.

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Those hydrogenated fats are often used in processed foods or baked goods, because they don't spoil as quickly as other fats. "In India, for example, researchers have found high concentrations of trans fats in street food and in packaged snacks, many of which have no warning labels".

Trans fats are finding their way onto too many plates, and they need to be eliminated - ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease have become first and second causes of premature mortality, and the majority of these cases occur in low and middle-income countries.

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

The Argentine Commission for the Elimination of Trans Fats was formed soon after.

"Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills", said Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "and there's no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed".

Originally popularized after the negative impacts of saturated fatty acids were discovered, trans fats have fallen out of favor as their own health effects have gained prominence.

Enforce compliance of policies and regulations. Also, this is the first time the WHO, or any global health organization, has proposed a ban on a dietary component.

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