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

In this answer to four written questions by MEPs (click the highlighted numbers to open them), Mr. Borg analyses the state of the art in EU about trans fatty acids.

In US the issue is at the top of the FDA agenda.

FDA has made a preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the major dietary source of trans fat in the processed food supply, are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe, or GRAS. If FDA makes a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS, a company could not use PHOs in food without approval from the FDA, although it may take some time for the change to be fully implemented.

FDA made this preliminary determination because trans fats have significant adverse health effects. Scientific evidence has shown that consumption of trans fat raises low density lipoprotein (LDL-C or “bad) cholesterol, which increases the risk of developing heart disease. Trans fat may also have other adverse health effects, including lowering high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). Considering only the effects of trans fat from partially hydrogenated oils on levels of LDL-C, “bad” cholesterol, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that eliminating intake of trans fat from partially hydrogenated oils could prevent up to 20,000 cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) and up to 7,000 deaths annually.

The trans fat found in foods can either be natural or artificial. Naturally occuring trans fat is produced in the gut of some grazing animals, and that is why small quantities can be found in animal-based foods such as milk, milk products, and certain meats. FDA’s action would not affect these foods.

Artificial trans fat is formed during food processing through hydrogenation of vegetable oils.

Joint answer given by Mr Borg on behalf of the Commission (20 December 2013) – Written questions: E-012709/13, E-012853/13, E-012895/13, E-012777/13

Based on requests of the Commission, the European Food Safety Authority adopted two Scientific Opinions, one on the presence of trans fatty acids in foods and their effect on human health and one on Dietary Reference Values for fats, including trans fatty acids.

The Commission is aware that the consumption of trans fatty acids is, along with saturated fat and overall fat intake, known to be a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

Article 30(7) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/20011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers requires the Commission to submit by 13 December 2014 ‘a report on the presence of trans fats in foods and in the overall diet of the Union population. The aim of the report shall be to assess the impact of appropriate means that could enable consumers to make healthier food and overall dietary choices or that could promote the provision of healthier food options to consumers, including, among others, the provision of information on trans fats to consumers or restrictions on their use.’ The Commission is also asked to accompany this report with a legislative proposal, if appropriate. This report will address the issue of consumers’ perception of trans fatty acids.

Currently, Denmark, Austria and Hungary have notified national measures limiting the presence of trans fatty acids of non-ruminant origin in foods.

Further, it should be noted that the Commission is encouraging self-regulatory action in order to further decrease the content of trans fatty acids in food products. There are commitments in the EU Platform for Action on Diet, Physical Activity and Health that concern the reformulation of products to reduce the content of trans fatty acids.