An end to trans fats?

By Mariam Digges

An end to trans fats?
Local health officials are calling on the government to follow US footsteps and ban harmful trans fats once and for all.

Following the lead of the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) who recently announced they are calling on the food industry to gradually phase out all trans fats due to its serious health implications, Australian and New Zealand experts are calling on a similar ban.

Calling trans fats “not generally recognised as safe for use in food”,  the FDA divulged details of its phase-out process

Found in a staggering 40 per cent of products on the shelves and in the frozen food aisle, as well as a number of restaurant and fast food chain products, trans fats are partially hydrogenated oils which are man-made. Hydrogen is added to oil to make it last longer, improve its texture and taste, and also allows reuse – or re-frying – from restaurant chains.

Margarines and vegetable oils are other products that can contain artificial trans fats, unless they specify otherwise. Unfortunately, due to a lack of awareness and research, trans fats were once considered healthy, reigning in popularity during the fat-phobic 1990s.

Since then, studies have dispelled the claims, finding trans fats to be worse than saturated fats, causing bad cholesterol to increase and good cholesterol to decrease, increasing incidence of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

If the US studies are anything to go by, banning trans fats locally could have wide-reaching implication for our health industry (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cutting out trans fats could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year in the US).

In Australia, the debate is currently centering on food labeling, with many consumers left in the dark due to poor manufacture labeling of trans fats content in supermarket products such as biscuits, frozen pastries and chicken nuggets. It would take a national government health review to lead to the food labeling changes – a review that is being urged by health and nutrition experts.


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