Australia joins calls for trans fat labels

Related tags Trans fatty acids Nutrition Hydrogenation Fatty acid

Trans fat concerns hit Australia with consumer groups calling for
trans fat to be highlighted on food labels after more than a third
of 50 food products tested had levels 'well above what is
considered safe by many experts', writes Lindsey Partos.

The consumer group CHOICE joins mounting calls from Europe and the US to tackle the issue of trans fatty acids.

Though low amounts of trans fats (unsaturated fatty acid molecule that contains a trans double bond) are found naturally in dairy and meats, the vast majority are created during the manufacture of processed foods.

Found in deep-fried fast foods and certain processed foods made with margarine or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, trans fats are formed by a process called hydrogenation, that extend shelf life and flavour stability.

But mounting evidence suggests TFAs raise LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, causing the arteries to become more rigid and clogged. An increase in LDL cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, the number one global killer.

Concerned about the impact this processing phenomenon can have on consumer health, in 2003 Denmark became the first country in the world to introduce restrictions.

Oils and fat are now forbidden on the Danish market if they contain trans fatty acids exceeding 2 per cent, a move that effectively bans partially hydrogenated oils.

The Danish move gave impetus to consumer groups, and governments, in Europe and US concerned about TFAs by launching the debate at a political, and legislative, level.

In February, for example, reports in the Israeli press suggest there are government policies afoot to specify trans fatty acids on the ingredients label. According to an article in the Jerusalem Post​, the country's health ministry is reported as saying it will give manufacturers and importers two years to label TFAs, before the change becomes binding.

And while there are no current rules on TFA labels in the European Union, from January 2006 food manufacturers working on the US market will have to list trans fat on the nutrition label.

"Experts worldwide are becoming concerned about the health impact of trans fat. Weight for weight, it's probably worse for you than saturated fat, which does have to be listed on labels,"​ says CHOICE food policy officer Clare Hughes.

The Australian group wants manufacturers to be required to include the amount of trans fat, as well as saturated fat, on the label.

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