SNP on health mission to trim danger fats from public diet
DANGEROUS fats used in a wide range of foods should be strictly limited to improve public health, a Scottish MEP says.
Trans fats – also known as trans fatty acids (TFAs) – have been linked to an increased risk of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.
Now SNP MEP Alyn Smith is taking the battle to reduce their use in foods to the European Commission in a bid to make manufacturers take them out of their products.
But the food industry said companies are already cutting their use of trans fats, and government agencies had said there was no need for regulation in this area.
Trans fats are produced when liquid vegetable oils are turned into solids, using a process of heating and adding hydrogen gas. The fats can be found in products such as fast foods, sweets and baked goods such as biscuits and cakes.
Critics say the process that creates trans fats is only used to lengthen the shelf-life of foods, and the fats are a cheap and convenient ingredient for manufacturers to use.
Mr Smith, who wants to see trans fats limited to no more than 2 per cent content in food ingredients, said they were linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. He has produced a declaration he hopes will attract the support of other MEPs so the European Commission will consider implementing the limits across the EU. It could be the first step towards a ban of man-made trans fats in products.
"Trans fatty acids are not essential in our diet and do not promote good health," Mr Smith said.
"The primary health risks identified from the consumption of industrially-produced TFAs, as opposed to the naturally occurring variety, is an elevated risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity."
Mr Smith said while trans fats were originally used to lengthen shelf-life of foods, this reason was no longer viable.
"Refrigeration during transport and storage options have improved and alternatives now exist," he said.
Several countries have already taken action to reduce trans fats in foods. Denmark introduced legislation in March 2003 to limit trans fat content to no more than 2 per cent in products.
A similar regulation was brought into Switzerland in 2008, limiting to 2 per cent trans fats from plant sources in products.
In December 2006, New York Board of Health restricted trans fats in restaurants foods to less than 0.5g per serving. Other parts of the US have followed suit with similar bans.
But in the UK, the food industry has been left to reduce trans fats on a voluntary basis.
Ben McKendrick, from the British Heart Foundation Scotland, called for food manufacturers and retailers to clearly label trans fatty acids, alongside fat and saturated fat, on food packaging so that people could make informed decisions.
"We also want to see the Food Standards Agency collect detailed information on consumption, to identify where and how trans fats are being consumed, and set robust targets for their elimination," he said.
Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation, said "significant efforts" had been made by manufacturers to voluntarily reduce the level of trans fats in their food products.
WHAT EXACTLY ARE TRANS FATS?
TRANS fats are chemically altered vegetable oils which prolong the life of foods and also enhance their texture.
They can be found in fast foods, sweets and baked goods such as biscuits and cakes.
These man-made fats are produced when liquid vegetable oils are turned into solid fats through a hydrogenation. process. Health experts say the fats have no known nutritional benefits and raise "bad" cholesterol levels which are bad for heart health.
Trans fats also occur naturally in meat and dairy products, but these pose no risk.
The Food Standards Agency says trans fats make up a very small percentage of overall energy intake.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West