Thursday, 19 July, 2018

WHO plans to strike trans-fats from global food supply

ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber ImageCreditAudrey Helen Weber
Johnnie Parks | 14 May, 2018, 23:15

World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "WHO calls on governments to use the Replace action package to eliminate industrially produced trans fatty acids from the food supply.

Officials think it can be done in five years because the work is well underway in many countries. In addition, many countries have not explained the health risks that these fats pose.

REPLACE is the product of an agency with 7,000 people working in offices in 150 countries and, as such, is not one of those acronyms whose meaning is immediately apparent like, say, LOL. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats. In the decades that followed, food companies began incorporating partially hydrogenated oil into their products because it increased the shelf life of baked goods and facilitated an easier way to make buyer-friendly food textures. Originally popularized after the negative impacts of saturated fatty acids were discovered, trans fats have fallen out of favor as their own health effects have gained prominence. Moreover, the foods that still contain trans fats in the US and Europe tend to disproportionately affect the poor, because foods containing trans fats tend to be cheaper. That may have been true of the old margarines made using hydrogenated oils, but it's less true now. Oils containing trans fats are cheap, easy to produce, and often taste pretty good, therefore keeping them popular in lower-income countries - which is why the World Health Organization is pushing this plan and asking governments to phase out trans fats within five years.

Speaking at the launch of the REPLACE initiative in Geneva, WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply".

The new REPLACE program is WHO's first time calling for the elimination of something besides a non-communicable disease.

WHO Global Ambassador for Non-communicable Diseases, Michael R. Bloomberg, a three-term mayor of NY city and the founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, said "A comprehensive approach to tobacco control allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than nearly anyone thought possible - now, a similar approach to trans fat can help us make that kind of progress against cardiovascular disease, another of the world's leading causes of preventable death".

In the US, the first trans fatty food to hit the market was Crisco shortening, which went on sale in 1911.

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Those hydrogenated fats are often used in processed foods or baked goods, because they don't spoil as quickly as other fats. They used them in doughnuts, cookies and deep-fried foods.

Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.

Monday's statement also quotes former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as touting his administration's successful campaign against trans fats.

It's only been since the 1980s that nutritionists began to recognize that trans fats are as unhealthful as saturated fats, found in meat, butter and cheese.

By 2010, trans fat levels in the blood of middle-aged USA adults dropped by almost 60 percent.

"The removal of trans fats from the food supply as an additive counts as one of the major public health victories of the last decade", said Laura MacCleery, policy director for the Washington, D.C. -based advocacy group, Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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