Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada have set up a task force to examine the best ways of reducing trans fats.
This announcement is in line with the commitment made to all parties in the House of Commons aimed at developing recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fats in Canadian foods to the lowest levels possible.
The task force is being developed with the support and participation of the food processing and food service industries, and will include representatives from health associations, government, academia and industry.
Linked to raised blood cholesterol levels and heart disease in animal fats, trans fats are created by a chemical process called hydrogenation, which gives products a longer shelf life. They have come under fire from consumer organisations keen to see manufacturers remove the TFA presence from food products to improve consumer's dietary regimes.
"Clearly, heart disease is a major chronic disease in Canada, so we must address its causes and tackle all the relevant determinants," said Carolyn Bennett minister of state for public health. "Our action on the trans fat issue is part of a much broader, complex strategy to foster health through healthy living."
"Finding healthy alternatives to fats and oils high in trans fats will require a concerted effort," said Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. "Through this multi-stakeholder group, Health Canada will help ensure that practical solutions are developed to help Canadians move from trans fats to healthier alternatives."
The health minster has asked that recommendations regarding public education, labeling and any possible immediate opportunities for the food service and food processing industry to reduce trans fats are filed by spring 2005.
Canada was in fact the first country in the world to regulate trans fat labeling, followed by the US last year. Christina Zehaluk, a nutritionist with the Bureau of Nutritional Scientists, told NutraIngredientsUSA.com that unlike in the US - where clear labeling of trans fats on food products should be in place by 2006 - food manufacturers in Canada will be obliged to state the recommended daily limit of trans fats.
"We will recommend limiting saturated and trans fats to 10 percent of a person's energy," she said.
Zehaluk explained that the task force will not necessarily be aimed at producing further legislation, but looking at ways to reduce the use of trans fat as far as possible.
"We can't bring trans fat down to zero and there is already concern among some nutritionists that in attempting to reduce the intake of trans fats, people have reduced their intake of healthy oils, which may contain a small amount of trans fats, but which have other health benefits," she said.
Canadians have a particularly high level of trans fats in their diet, according to Zehaluk, because of the amount of canola oil they consume, though new varieties are starting to appear on the market, which are high in monosaturates.
"The food industry is supportive of what we are doing," said Zehaluk, noting that food manufacturers such as New York Fries and Frito Lay now use alternatives to trans fats.
She added that the setting up of the taskforce was partly the result of consumer pressure.
"In 1999, only 17 percent of Canadians were aware of trans fats, this figure would be much higher now," she said.