A Canadian government task force is recommending strict regulation to reduce the amount of harmful trans fats in foods.
The Trans Fat Task Force believes the risk of coronary heart disease can be significantly reduced through reduced consumption of industrial trans fats, which are used to extend the shelf life of many foods, especially baked and fried products.
In recent years evidence of the harmful effects of trans fats has been accumulating worldwide and in 2003 Denmark became the first country to regulate them.
Trans fats from sources other than meats and dairy products are now restricted in Denmark to a total of two per cent of fat content.
The Canadian task force is calling for limits of two per cent of the total fat content in soft, spreadable tub-type margarines and five per cent in all other foods containing industrially produced trans fats.
The proposed regulations apply to processed foods and those served in restaurants, with staged deadlines taking into account the different circumstances of each type of business.
Canada imposed mandatory labelling last year, and the food industry has already moved to eliminate trans fats from many products.
The regulations would be developed over the next two years, with the food industry granted an extension of two years to comply.
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) has recognised the need to reduce the levels of trans fatty acids in the Canadian diet and has published a new guide to help its members apply the limits proposed.
The guide 'How to Reduce or Eliminate Trans Fat in Menu Items' contains background information on trans fat and instructions on how to reduce or eliminate them.
CRFA's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Joyce Reynolds says there is a high degree of commitment in the industry to reduce or eliminate trans fat, but it is not a simple process.
Canadian restaurant companies are working to eliminate trans fat and more restaurant chains are providing detailed nutrition information to their customers.
Reynolds says while the Task Force has focused on the health impacts of lowering trans fat levels, more work is required to examine the business, agriculture and trade impact of the Task Force recommendations.
The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association is one of Canada's largest business associations.