The EU is considering legislating for setting maximum levels of trans fats (e.g. margarine) in food, EU Health Commissioner Andriukaitis has confirmed to MEP Mairead McGuinness.

Trans fats are generally those produced industrially from plant oils and include some margarines and snack foods, as opposed to saturated fats such as those found in butter, milk, meat and egg yolks.

The Fine Gael MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament said that Commission is examining various options.

“Not just legislation setting maximum levels for the presence of trans fats in food but also mandatory food labelling, as well as voluntary measures, so that consumers know what foods contain these undesirable fats.

“There is now no ambiguity about the dangers of trans fats. The latest research just published in the British Medical Journal has found that these industrially produced trans fats are linked to much greater risk of death and disease, a 34% increase in mortality and a 28% increase in coronary heart disease.

“These industrially produced trans fats offer no dietary benefits whatsoever and in fact cause real health concerns,” she said.

The MEP said coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in the EU, accounting for over 680,000 deaths every year, and is estimated to cost the €60 billion annually.

The Commission confirmed to McGuinness that it is in the process of finalising a report on the issue of trans fats in food and in the overall diet of population as required under Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.

“Setting a statutory upper limit on these fats is the most effective way to reduce consumer intake.

“Within the EU, Austria, Denmark and Hungary have already adopted legislation to restrict trans fats in the food chain,” she said.

The MEP also said that setting a statutory upper limit does not lead to higher costs and does not alter the taste of foods that contain them.