World Health Organization urges end to use of trans fats in food

Spencer Underwood
May 14, 2018

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released on Monday, an initiative called REPLACE that will provide guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods, possibly leading to a worldwide eradication.

Artificial trans fats are unhealthy substances that are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it solid, like in the creation of margarine or shortening.

Multinational companies that make trans fats and have used them as ingredients said they have largely eliminated those oils from foods in the USA, parts of Europe and Canada, where governments already restrict their use.

"Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?" asked WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"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". Carbohydrates, sugar, salt, and saturated fats have all gotten a bad rap at some point, but none of them have become true villains in food-not like trans fat has. But the World Health Organization stressed that healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

According to WHO, Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world. "What we found in New York City was that industry wasn't really willing to fight us on this", Frieden said, Howard writes, because artificial trans fats are "easily replaceable". "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".


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

When New York City banned restaurants from serving food with trans fats in 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted a requirement that same year for manufacturers to list trans fat content information on food labels.

Enforce compliance with policies and regulations. Health experts say they can be replaced with canola oil or other products. In the decades that followed, food companies began incorporating partially hydrogenated oil into their products because it increased the shelf life of baked goods and facilitated an easier way to make buyer-friendly food textures.

Trans fats increases levels of LDL-cholesterol, a well-accepted biomarker for cardiovascular disease risk.

But over time, health studies began to show correlations between trans fat and high cholesterol and heart failure risk.

World Health Organization recommends that the total trans-fat intake be limited to less than one percent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 grams per day with a 2,000-calorie diet. Replacing trans fats with unsaturated fatty acids decreases the risk of heart disease, in part, by ameliorating the negative effects of trans fats on blood lipids.

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