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.

More information:

Written Q&A to EU Commission – Latest answer on trans fatty acids

Here another answer of the Commission about trans-fats. It’s quite fresh (25th February 2014).

It’s clear from this answer that:

1) The Commission is following with great attention the FDA move about trans fats;

2) Probably the report of the Commission on trans-fats (art. 30(7) Reg. EU n. 1169/2011) will not be released in the next few weeks. My opinion is that it’s quite sure the Commission will wait the end of the comment period (4th March 2014) to see how FDA will proceed on this issue;

3) The Commission refuses to address the matter applying the precautionary principle, strongly invoked by MEPs, but I think a little bit out of context in this case.

Enjoy the healthy reading!

Question for written answer to the Commission – Rule 117 – Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE)

P-001091-14 (4th February 2014)

In October 2013, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Federal Register Notice stating that, based on new scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels, partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), which are the primary dietary source of industrially produced trans fatty acids, or trans fats, are not generally recognised as safe for any use in food, based on current scientific evidence establishing the health risks associated with the consumption of trans fat. The Notice states that PHOs are therefore food additives which should be subject to a pre-market approval by the FDA.

The FDA decision is based on the latest scientific evidence which has demonstrated and confirmed the significant health risks posed by trans fats. These are responsible for the burden of diet-related chronic disease which the Commission aims to address.

Has the Commission been liaising with the FDA in order to update its policy and legislative response to the risks posed by trans fats?

Can the Commission provide an update on the progress made on the report on trans fats, which is to be submitted by December 2014 as required by Regulation 1169/2011? In light of the latest scientific evidence and the FDA Notice, is the Commission willing to bring forward the publication of this report?

Would the Commission consider applying the precautionary principle and take immediate regulatory action in order to restrict the presence of trans fats in processed food and to allow its use only after pre-market approval has been granted, as planned by the FDA?

P-001091/2014 – Answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission (25.2.2014)

The Commission is aware of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Federal Register Notice on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), from October 2013, which includes FDA’s preliminary determination that PHOs, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use in food. The FDA has opened a 60-day comment period on this preliminary determination to collect additional data and to gain input on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat should this determination be finalized, which was extended by 60 days, to March 8, 2014. The Commission has so far not yet liaised with the FDA but is continuing to follow the issue, including the results of the consultation and the final decision of the FDA.

 The Commission is in the process of drafting the report on trans fats as required in Article 30(7) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers. In order to be able to include new data, the Commission is undertaking a consumer research study that will be finalised in 2014. Therefore, it is difficult to advance the publication of the report.

The issue of trans fat has been discussed during the negotiations of Regulation (EU) No 1169/20011. The co legislator has agreed that the Commission will submit afore mentioned report that would address all the pertinent questions. Therefore, there is no need at this stage to take a differing approach.

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