Health Canada, the governmental health department, has introduced a regulatory proposal to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of industrially produced trans fats in food.

According to a statement released on April 7, prohibiting PHOs in all food sold in Canada would represent a “significant and final step” in Health Canada’s efforts to reduce trans fats to the lowest possible level, in order to promote greater national health.

The move follows the October 2016 launch of the Healthy Eating Strategy by Health Minister Jane Philpott, itself based on a mandate letter sent to her in 2015.

“Through the Health Eating Strategy, our government is working to make the healthier choice the easier choice. By prohibiting PHOs, we are removing the largest source of industrial trans fats from Canada’s food supply and helping [to] reduce the risk of heart disease,” she said in the statement.

Under the strategy, trans fats must be reported in the nutritional facts table on product labels; the making of claims that products are ‘trans fats-free’ is regulated; and voluntary programmes to reduce the use of trans fats have been set up.

While Health Canada said this approach has proven successful, some foods still contain industrially-produced trans fats. It now intends to add these to Part 1 of the Canadian List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods.

The first part of the list declares substances that will, at any concentration, result in the food being considered adulterated; and the second part lists the maximum levels of certain substances allowed in food without it receiving the adulterated label.

By Health Canada’s definition, PHOs in the list would be defined as fats and oils that have not been hydrogenated to complete or near-complete saturation and have an iodine value greater than 4.

This definition would apply to PHOs used in foods intended for human consumption and PHOs added to foods for minor use applications or technical purposes, such as processing aids and pan release agents.

If the regulation is introduced, Canadian producers would have a 12-month transition period to switch their production away from trans fats; re-label products; and sell existing stock.

A notice of proposal detailing the legislation has been posted to seek comments from Canadians and will remain open until June 21.

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fatty acid found naturally in food from ruminant animals, such as milk and beef, but which can also be produced industrially.

Consumption of trans fats has been linked to increased risk of coronary heart disease. Major authoritative health bodies, such as the World Health Organisation and the Institute of Medicine, have recommended limiting their consumption to a maximum of 1% of total daily energy intake.

Source: OFI Magazine, April 18, 2017


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