By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
Following health concerns about the consumption of trans fat, the necessity of regulating the inclusion of trans fat in food products and restaurants has been accepted by governing bodies around the world.
Each country has handled the situation slightly differently, according to the needs of their population and the food culture in that country.
The federal government of Australia has indicated at several times its intention to actively reduce the use of trans fat in fast foods.
In 2007, the federal assistant health minister at that time, Chistopher Pyne, addressed representatives from the fast food industry, stressing the importance of reducing harmful trans fat in cooking processes. The representatives were reported to be cooperative and were willing to opt for alternative cooking methods voluntarily. It was further stipulated at this time that if the industry did not make the necessary changes of their own accord, mandatory labeling and other regulative methods would be introduced.
Current laws in Australia do not require food producers to stipulate the content of trans fat separate from total fat content on food labels. However, consumption of trans fat in Australia is lower than of other countries and is within the standards set by the World Health Organization, with saturated fat consumption presenting as a more concerning issue.
Health Canada has enforced the content of trans fat to be included on food product labels since 2005. However, products containing less that 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving are regarded as trans fat free for labeling purposes. There is some controversy over the labeling of trans fat in Canada, particularly as naturally occurring and artificially produced trans fats are not individually distinguished.
In 2006, recommendations were released to limit trans fat to 5% of total fat in all products and 2% for margarines and similar spreads. This encouraged the food industry to remove industrially produced trans fat from food products and, therefore, the Canadian diet. Changes resulting from these recommendations gradually arose over the following years.
In 2005 and 2006 there were several calls for action in the United Kingdom in regards to the reduction of trans fat, including from the Food Standards Agency and British Medical Journal.
At the beginning of 2007, the British Retail Consortium announced the intention of many major food retailers to cease the addition of trans fatty acids by the end of the year. The Food Standards Agency confirmed the validity of these claims at the conclusion of the year, reporting that the reduction had already resulted in safer levels of consumption.
In 2010, the British Medical Journal and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) released recommendations that trans fats should be virtually eliminated to reduce the incidence of death associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the food industry was not in favor of further changes, as it had already complied with health recommendations set by the World Health Organization.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) initiated regulations that required food and dietary supplement manufacturers to stipulate the trans fat content on food labels in 2003. This became mandatory for all companies, including those that requested exceptions, in 2008.
However, under current regulations 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving is regarded as trans fat free for the purposes of the food label. Experts and advisors such as Dr. Carlos Camagro have viewed this critically, as 0.5 g of trans fat can do significant damage, particularly if individuals consume several serving sizes.
There is also some concern that the general public does not understand the gravity of trans fat in food products and cannot interpret nutrition information included on labels adequately.
In 2013, the FDA declared that trans fat are not generally recognized as safe, which could lead to the reclassification of trans fat as a food additive in the future. This would virtually eliminate trans fat from food products in the United States, as they could only be used with specific regulatory authorization.
Last Updated: Jun 14, 2015