Industrially produced trans fats – commonly found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads – are responsible for up to 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year, the United Nations agency speak.
Major health risks
Since then, 43 countries have implemented best practice policies to tackle trans fats, with around 2.8 million people now protected, a nearly six-fold increase. However, the elimination target has not yet been achieved.
“Trans fats have” no known benefitsand great health risk That causes huge costs to health systems, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“In contrast, eliminating trans fats is cost-effective and offers huge health benefits. Simply put, trans fat is a toxic chemical that can kill, and should have there is no place in the food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all.”
Limits and bans
Best practice policies towards this goal follow specific criteria established by WHO and restrict industrially produced trans fats in all environments.
Alternatives include limiting trans fats to 2 grams per 100 grams of total fat in all foods and a mandatory nationwide ban on the production or use of hydrogenated oils ingredients – the main source of trans fats – as ingredients in foods.
Currently, 9 of the 16 countries with the highest estimated coronary heart disease mortality due to trans fat intake do not have a best practice policy.
These are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea.
Countries applying the policy
While most policies to date have been implemented in wealthier countries, largely in the Americas and Europe, WHO says an increasing number of middle-income countries are implementing or adopting policies, including Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, the Philippines and Ukraine.
Other countries are considering action this year, such as Mexico, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. To date, no low-income country has adopted a trans fat best practice policy.
A ‘preventable tragedy’
Annual status report published by WHO in collaboration with Resolve to Save Lives, a non-profit organization that supports action towards eliminating industrially produced trans fats from the national food supply. .
Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Live, warned that progress was in danger of stalling.
“Every government can prevent these preventable deaths by adopting best practices now. Killer trans fat days are numbered – but governments must act to end this preventable tragedy.”
Field of action
This year, WHO recommends that countries focus on best practice policy adoption, in addition to monitoring and surveillance, healthy oil substitution, and advocacy.
The United Nations agency has developed guidelines to help governments make rapid progress in these four areas.
Meanwhile, food manufacturers are encouraged to remove industrially produced trans fats from their products, in line with commitments made by the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA).
Major suppliers of oils and fats are also required to remove industrially produced trans fats from products sold to food manufacturers globally.