‘EU should place mandatory limits on trans-fats’

The EU should place mandatory limits on industrially-produced trans-fatty acids (TFA) which may increase the risk of certain health problems for consumers, a resolution voted on by MEPs said today.

Trans-fatty acids 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.

These TFAs may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, infertility, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and obesity for consumers.

MEPs mention the fact that, according to the European Commission, only one in three consumers in the EU knows about TFAs which shows that labelling measures are not enough.

The Commission should therefore propose an EU legal limit on the industrial TFA content of all foods as soon as possible, and preferably within two years, MEPs said.

The resolution, which was passed by 586 votes to 19 with 38 abstentions, said that there is evidence that Denmark’s introduction of legal limits for industrial TFAs, which brought in a national limit of 2% on trans fats in oils and fats in 2003, was successful, significantly reducing deaths caused by cardiovascular disease.

Trans-fats tend to be used in cheaper foods, which means that people on lower incomes are most exposed to foodstuffs with a higher TFA content. MEPs said that this in turn increases the potential for widening health inequalities.

In December of last year, a European Commission report found 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.

In 2003, Denmark became the first EU Member State to limit the content of trans fats in oils and fats by law and similar national legal limits have since been introduced in Austria (2009) Hungary (2013) and Latvia (2015).

Voluntary measures to reduce TFA content are in place in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and Greece.

Since 2006, food producers in the US have been obliged to indicate the presence of trans fatty acids in their products on labels.