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.

US – Menu and vending machine calorie labeling rules

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations to provide consumers with more nutritional information about the foods they eat outside of the home. The rules are required by the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“Americans eat and drink about one-third of their calories away from home and people today expect clear information about the products they consume,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “Making calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines is an important step for public health that will help consumers make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

The menu labeling final rule applies to restaurants and similar retail food establishments if they are part of a chain of 20 or more locations, doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items. Covered food establishments will be required to clearly and conspicuously display calorie information for standard items on menus and menu boards, next to the name or price of the item. Seasonal menu items offered for sale as temporary menu items, daily specials and condiments for general use typically available on a counter or table are exempt from the labeling requirements.

Some states, localities and various large restaurant chains are already doing their own forms of menu labeling. The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, the law establishing nutrition labeling on most foods, did not cover nutrition labeling for restaurants and other ready-to-eat foods. In the years that followed, states and cities created their own labeling requirements for such foods. These federal standards will help avoid situations in which a chain restaurant subject to the federal requirements has to meet different requirements in different states.

The FDA considered more than 1,100 comments from stakeholders and consumers in developing these rules. In response to comments, the FDA narrowed the scope of foods covered by the rule to more clearly focus on restaurant-type food, made other adjustments such as ensuring the flexibility for multi-serving dishes like pizza to be labeled by the slice rather than as a whole pie, and provided establishments additional time to comply with the rule.

In addition, the menu labeling final rule now includes certain alcoholic beverages served in covered food establishments and listed on the menu, but still provides flexibility in how establishments meet this provision. The majority of comments supported including alcohol because of the impact on public health. The menu labeling rule also includes food facilities in entertainment venue chains such as movie theaters and amusement parks.

Restaurants and similar retail food establishments will have one year to comply with the menu labeling requirements.

To help consumers understand the significance of the calorie information in the context of a total daily diet, under the rule, menus and menu boards will include the statement:

“2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice, but calorie needs vary.”

The menu labeling final rule also requires covered establishments to provide, upon consumer request and as noted on menus and menu boards, written nutrition information about total calories, total fat, calories from fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, fiber, sugars and protein.

Entities that are not required to comply with the regulation may “volunteer” to comply by registering with FDA.

The vending machine final rule requires operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie information for food sold from vending machines, subject to certain exceptions. Vending machine operators will have two years to comply with the requirements.

The two final rules are available in the Federal Register: