Trans Fats EU Legislation Changes

The European Commission (EC) is preparing to regulate the sector of trans fats (TFA), affecting bakery goods and especially some biscuit products which might still contain high amounts of these fats.

One of the most important elements of the proposal is establishing a maximum limit of TFA, other than those naturally occurring in animal fat. In food which is intended for the final consumer, that limit should be of 2 grams per 100 grams of fat. Moreover, food which does not comply may continue to be placed on the market until April 1, 2021.

In Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, trans fats are defined as “fatty acids with at least one non-conjugated (namely interrupted by at least one methylene group) carbon-carbon double bond in the trans configuration.”

In October 2018, the EC has published a draft Commission Regulation amending Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council. TFA and stakeholders are able to submit their comments over a four-week feedback period.

In December 2015, the Commission adopted a report regarding trans fats in foods and in the overall diet of the EU population. According to the report, high intakes of TFA contribute to the risk of developing coronary heart disease; however, the precise contribution to the overall health and economic problem is difficult to assess for the entire EU, due to limited data available for TFA intakes throughout the EU. Nevertheless, the document showed that the majority of food products contain less than 2 g TFA/100 g fat. The data also showed that there were still products in the European food market with high levels of TFA (e.g. biscuits or popcorn with values in the order of 40-50 g TFA/100 g fat). These also include non-pre-packed foods such as bakery products that contain TFA (> 2 g of TFA per 100 g fat).

At the moment, the studies cited in the report highlighted that in supermarkets in seven cities (London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm) popular foods such as pre-packed biscuits, cakes or wafers did not contain partially hydrogenated oils. However, products with high industrial TFA content were found in nine countries (EU countries: Sweden, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovenia as well as candidate countries – Serbia, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the potential candidate country Bosnia-Herzegovina).

The study suggests that industrial TFA levels have been decreasing in selected food groups in some but not in all European countries between 2006 and 2013. In some Eastern and South-Eastern European countries, industrial TFA levels in pre-packaged biscuits, cakes, and wafers have not dropped meaningfully since the mid-2000s. This suggests that in certain parts of the EU little progress has been made. Examples of products found to contain TFA in considerable amounts in member states are mostly food containing industrial TFA: frying fat also for industrial use, stick margarines, margarine used to produce pastry products, bakery products, biscuits, wafers, confectionary products including those with cocoa coatings such as covered puffed rice, soups and sauces.

What Is the Situation in Other Countries?

In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated the sector of trans fats in 2015, offering time to manufacturers by June 2018, to ensure their products no longer contain partially hydrogenated oils – PHO (Trans fat is a component of PHOs) for uses that have not been authorized by the FDA. Because trans-fat cannot be totally eliminated from foods, the amount of it has to be labeled. If the food contains less than 0.5 g of trans fat per serving, 0 g of trans fat can be declared in the Nutrition Facts Label.

In Canada, artificial trans fats were officially banned from food supply starting with the middle of September 2018. The ban saw Health Canada, the department of the government of Canada with responsibility for national public health, add partially hydrogenated oils to its “List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances.” Due to the new legislation coming into effect, it is now illegal for manufacturers to add artificial trans fats to their products. The ban applies to all foods produced for sale in the country, including imported products and foods prepared and served in restaurants and food service establishments.

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