The World Health Organisation (WHO) wants industrially-produced trans fats — linked with 500,000 deaths worldwide each year — stripped out of the global food supply within five years.
- Denmark was the first country to impose strict restrictions on trans fats
- It saw a marked reduction in cardiovascular related deaths
- Heart disease is a leading killer of Australian women
Margarine, ghee, and hardened vegetable fats often contain industrially produced trans fats — and as they are also present in many snacks, baked goods and fried foods.
Health advocates say these fats are the most harmful fat in the food supply. According to WHO, they lead to death by contributing to cardiovascular disease.
WHO is calling on governments around the world to use its REPLACE action plan to swap trans fats for healthier options, which it says will not affect the taste or cost of food.
“It’s a crisis level, and it’s major front in our fight now,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.
The REPLACE plan urges governments to assess and monitor trans fats consumption, promote substitution with healthier products, and establish laws or regulations to stamp out trans fats, and raise awareness of the risks of their use.
“Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed,” President of Resolve to Save Lives Tom Frieden said.
WHO says diets high in trans fats increase the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent, and death by 28 per cent.
Only artificial trans fats are in the firing line
The problem of trans fats is often most pronounced in low- and middle-income countries where there are few controls in place on products.
Food makers tend to like artificial trans fats because they prolong product shelf life. Trans fats also occur naturally in the dairy products and meat of ruminants, like cows and sheep.
The WHO plan is only targeting industrially produced trans fats.
A number high-income countries have already placed strict limits on trans fats, virtually eliminating them.
Denmark — the first country to impose mandatory restrictions on trans fats 15 years ago— has already seen a marked improvement of its citizens’ health, with a dramatic drop in the number of cardiovascular disease-related deaths.
Switzerland, Britain, Canada, and the US have all already moved to ban trans fats, and Thailand is expected to make a similar decree in the next month, according to the New York Times.
The Heart Foundation says cardiovascular disease is a leading killer of Australian women.