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MEPs call for limit on trans fats in food

MEPs call for limit on trans fats in food

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(STRASBOURG) - The European Parliament voted Wednesday for mandatory limits on industrially-produced trans fats, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, infertility, Alzheimer's, diabetes and obesity.

Industrial trans fats (TFA intake is mostly linked to consumption of industrially produced, partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats can be found in anything from fast food to bakery products, chips and margarine, however they can also prove bad for your health. Scientific research has linked heavy consumption of them with obesity, diabetes, infertility, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases.

According to the European Commission, only one in three consumers in the EU knows about TFAs. This, says MEPs, shows that labelling measures are not enough.

The Commission, they say, should propose an EU legal limit on the industrial TFA content of all foods as soon as possible, and preferably within two years.

There is some evidence that an introduction of legal limits for industrial TFAs in Denmark, which brought in a national limit of 2% on trans fats in oils and fats in 2003, was successful, resulting in significant reduction of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease.

TFAs tend to be used in cheaper foods, which means that people on lower incomes are most exposed to foodstuffs with a higher TFA content. This in turn increases the potential for widening health inequalities, say MEPs.

Trans-fatty acids (TFAs) are unsaturated fats found in foods obtained from ruminants, in some food products of vegetable origin, and in industrially-produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Their consumption has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. High TFA intake is a risk factor for developing coronary heart disease, which accounts for some 660,000 deaths annually in the EU or some 14% of overall mortality, according to the Commission.

Apart from Denmark, national legal limits have been introduced in Austria (2009) Hungary (2013) and Latvia (2015). Voluntary measures to reduce TFA content are in place in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and Greece. National dietary recommendations on TFAs have been issued in Bulgaria, Malta, Slovakia, the UK and Finland.

In June 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a decision determining that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of industrial trans fats in processed foods, were no longer "generally recognized as safe" for use in human food and are to be prohibited by June 2018.

Trans fats - background guide

Further information, European Parliament

Adopted text (2016/2637(RSP)) will soon be available here (26.10.2016)

EU science hub - Trans fatty acids in Europe: where do we stand?


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