EU action is needed to set legal limits on trans fats – Report finds

EU action is needed to set legal limits on trans fats, a new report by the European Commission has concluded.

This issue is a worldwide concern, according to the Commission.

It states that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has notably adopted a decision last June to remove partially hydrogenated oils from foods within three years.

The Commission’s preliminary report suggests that setting a legal limit for industrial trans fats content would be the most effective measure in terms of public health, consumer protection and compatibility with the single market.

The way in which such legal limit could be technically put into practice would require further investigation, according to the report.

The report notes that there are food products with high industrial trans fats content available on the European market and there are public health gains to be reaped by reducing intake.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the EU and a high intake of trans fats seriously increases the risk for heart disease – more than any other nutrient on a per calorie basis.

Although average intake in the EU has been reported below national and international recommended levels, this cannot be said for all groups of population, according to the report.

This report analysed how effective different EU-wide measures could be on the potential health benefits for consumers but also the potential burdens for food producers.

The options that were investigated in the report included mandatory labelling of trans fats, setting legal limits of trans fats content in food and voluntary approaches to food reformulation.

So far, trans fats labelling is not well understood by consumers and increases the complexity of identifying healthier food choices, according to the Commission.

The effectiveness of voluntary approaches to food reformulation could be limited, the report found, as it would clearly depend on the scope of industry participation and the coverage of food products on the market.

The Commission will shortly launch a public consultation and carry out an impact assessment to collect more information and build on the analysis provided by today’s report.

This process will inform the Commission’s policy decision in the near future.