Hard times for industrial trans fats: EU upcoming legal limit and FDA moves

The EU Commission recently launched a public consultation on a draft Regulation setting a legal limit for trans fat, other than trans fat naturally occurring in animal fat, in foods intended for the final consumer.

The consultation will be open until 1st November 2018 and anybody can participate.

The draft Regulation is pretty straightforward and it is made of just 2 articles.

Basically it states that, after EFSA opinion suggesting to limit as much as possible the intake of industrial trans fat – and the following assessment of the EU Commission about the viable options to reach this goal – setting a limit was the only realistic option to protect public health.

Therefore art. 1 states that in Part B of Annex III to Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 (on fortification of food and substances that might add to food and supplements), the following entry is added:

Trans fat

The following conditions shall apply:

a. The content of trans fat, other than trans fat naturally occurring in animal fat, in food which is intended for the final consumer, shall not exceed 2 grams per 100 grams of fat.

b. The definitions of “fat” and of “‘trans fat” set out respectively in points (2) and (4) of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011 shall apply.”

Therefore, the limit would not be applicable to B2B foods, provided that they are used in a way that grants no more that 2 g T-fat/100 g fat on the final products.

A transitional period is given by art. 2: food which does not comply with this draft Regulation may continue to be placed on the market until 1 April 2021.

In the meantime I remember to all our readers that in 2015, US FDA determined that PHOs (partially hydrogenated oils), the major source of artificial trans fat in the food supply, are no longer “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS). For the majority of uses of PHOs, June 18, 2018, remains the date after which manufacturers cannot add PHOs to foods, without filing a specific GRAS petition affirming the safety of use. However, to allow for an orderly transition in the marketplace, FDA is allowing more time for products produced prior to June 18, 2018 to work their way through distribution. FDA is extending the compliance date for these foods to January 1, 2020.

You can find the FDA related resources here.

BREAKING NEWS – EU Commission willing to set legal limits on trans fats

The European Commission has adopted today a report on trans fats (TFA) in food and in the overall diet of Europeans. This issue is a worldwide concern as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have notably adopted a decision last June to remove partially hydrogenated oils from foods within three years. The Commission’s preliminary report suggests that setting a legal limit for industrial TFA content would be the most effective measure in terms of public health, consumer protection and compatibility with the single market. The way in which such legal limit could be technically put into practice would require further investigation. The report notes that there are food products with high industrial TFA content available on the European market and there are public health gains to be reaped by reducing intake.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the EU and a high intake of TFA seriously increases the risk for heart disease – more than any other nutrient on a per calorie basis. Although average intake in the EU has been reported below national and international recommended levels, this cannot be said for all groups of population.

This report analyses how effective different EU wide measures could be on the potential health benefits for consumers but also the potential burdens for food producers. The options that were investigated included mandatory labelling of TFA, setting legal limits of TFA content in food and voluntary approaches to food reformulation. So far, TFA labelling is not well understood by consumers and increases the complexity of identifying healthier food choices. The effectiveness of voluntary approaches to food reformulation could be limited as it would clearly depend on the scope of industry participation and the coverage of food products on the market.

The Commission will shortly launch a public consultation and carry out an impact assessment to collect more information and build on the analysis provided by today’s report. This process will inform the Commission’s policy decision in the near future.

Trans fats are a particular type of fats that may notably be produced industrially as partially hydrogenated oils.

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