UK health bodies target unhealthy fats

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Trans fatty acids Nutrition

Two leading UK health organisations want the food industry to
radically reduce the amount of saturated fat used in its products
and to eliminate trans fats altogether.

Both the Faculty of Public Health and Heart of Mersey (HoM) claim that this is necessary to cut coronary heart disease – the UK's leading cause of premature death. They claim to be so concerned that they have issued a joint statement aimed at supermarkets and food manufacturers, calling for them to reformulate their products in favour of heart-friendly unsaturated fats – with the threat of legislation if necessary. The food industry remains adamant that tough action is already being taken over this issue. Over £1.5billion worth of food products in the UK alone are being reformulated in order to eliminate harmful trans fats, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). And on 31 January, the British Retail Consortium announced that its members, including all the major food retailers, would voluntarily remove industrially added TFA from all new stocks of own brand products by the end of this year. However, Faculty of Public Health president Rod Griffiths wants the industry to go further. "It's good that the food industry is starting to remove trans fats from their products, but the main priority for heart health is to reduce the saturated fat content of foods,"​ he said. "Supermarkets and the food industry have been dragging their feet in this respect, and we want to see a real step-change in product reformulation."​ HoM chair Chris Birt said that saturated fats, through their powerful effect on blood cholesterol, comprise the most important risk factor for cardiovascular disease. "Foods high in saturated fat are relatively cheap. The food industry uses large amounts of these inexpensive fats to deep-fry, add bulk or improve texture, whilst keeping prices low. "This is bound to impact on people with low incomes who are heavily influenced by food prices."​ The two organisations also want to see improved standards, training and quality control in the catering industry linked to the above issues and more effective restrictions on advertising high-fat snacks to children. The UK's Institute of Food Science & Technology recently published an updated information statement on trans fatty acids. The publication confirmed the growing scientific consensus that trans fatty acids (TFAs) are unhealthy, and noted that the food industry has made progress in removing such fats from its products.

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