Limitation of trans fats in foods - new regulation is coming.

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The EU Commission just published an inception impact assessment entitled “Initiative to limit industrial trans fats intakes in the EU”. The document is related to, planned for publication in a 3rd quarter, 2017, a new regulation about a limitation of trans fats in foods.


Although intakes of trans fats in EU have decreased over the past years, industrial trans fats (ITFAs) are still present at levels of concern in certain foods. They intake are still excessive in some diets and for particular population groups in EU.


Also, the US Food and Drug Administration concluded in 2015 that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of ITFAs, are no longer to be considered as “generally recognised as safe” (GRAS) for use in food and should be limited in the food.


The first EU country, which introduced a legal limit for ITFAs in food was Denmark. The law was implemented there in 2003. It is good to mention here, that legislative measures limiting the content of ITFAs to 2% of the total fat content in the food are today also present in some other countries like Austria, Hungary and Latvia. Voluntary self-regulation industrial measures have been implemented in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and Greece. Legal measures limiting in this area exist also in Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and mentioned above the US.


Even if there are regulations in some EU countries, there is a lack of homogeneity in the whole EU in relation to a limitation of IFTAs in food, what is causing problems in an effective functioning of the internal EU market (e.g. protection of consumers’ health).


A new EU initiative is focused only on ITFAs. It is understood that some sources of trans fats, like from ruminant animals, are naturally present in EU diet and cannot be therefore totally avoided. EU legislation has already set legal limits for trans fats in infant formula and follow-on formula (3% of the total fat content of the food), to allow for the use of milk, which naturally contains ruminant trans fats, as a source of fat. Also Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires since 13 December 2014 to specify in the ingredients list, whether used in food composition or processing refined fats/oils are partly hydrogenated. This regulation is limited only all prepacked foods and does not require the indication of the exact trans fats content. Now, EU initiative is going to set legal limits to ITFAs of all foods (both pre-packed and non-pre-packed), both on the consumers’ side and on the industry’s side.


The EU initiative is a result of a report to the European Parliament and the Council regarding trans fats in food and EU diet presented by Commission on 3 Dec, 2015. It concluded that a legal limit for ITFAs would be the most effective measure in terms of public health, consumer protection and compatibility within EU market, but further investigation on it is needed.


About a year ago the position of food industry stakeholders was summarised in the FoodDrinkEurope statement on trans fat.


The statement indicates that the ITFAs content in food can effectively be lowered without disproportionate costs, what was proved in Denmark.


It is likely, that in the future regulation can be established a limit for the presence of ITFAs in foods (both pre-packed and non-pre-packed), or it will be prohibiting the use of partially hydrogenated oils in foods (the same approach as adopted in the US).


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