A new collaboration between Australian and New Zealand food safety authorities is to target high levels of unhealthy saturated fats within their national diets.
Speaking yesterday, at the opening of the inaugural Australia New Zealand collaboration on trans fats, Christopher Pyne, Australian minister for health and ageing highlighted the increasing pressure on the countries processors to promote healthier formulations in their foods.
He revealed to the gathering of Australia and New Zealand's food safety experts that despite the success of the cooperation in reducing levels of trans fats in both countries' diets, more focus was needed on reducing other hazardous fats.
"While we are consuming levels of trans fats well below the WHO recommendation, we are eating above the WHO recommended levels of saturated fats," he said.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that just of just 1 per cent of the daily calorific consumption should be derived from trans fats.
On average, he pointed out Australians were found to consume only 0.6 per cent of their daily kilojoules though tranfats, with New Zealanders close behind on 0.7 per cent.
Though praising the efforts of manufacturers within the region to decrease the presence of trans fats within their goods, Pyne expressed concern that growing demand for products free from the substance is distorting wider safety concerns.
Pyne believes that the problem stems from producers becoming so focused on removing the most unpopular saturates from their goods that they are failing to account for other dangerous substances that may be present.
"Already I have seen reports in the media where a food outlet states is telling consumers that they had gone 'transfat free' when, in fact, it is using palm oil, which is high in saturated fat," he added.
"I've also seen claims that butter is 'virtually transfat free' when it, too, is high in saturated fats."
While not wishing to undermine the efforts taken against the use tranfats, Pyne added that with increasing synergy between the country's food industries, the cooperation still had much work to do in promoting healthier diets.
"While looking at the trans fats issue we have no wish to undo much of this good work, for example, by manufacturers and retailers returning to use saturated fats such as palm oil, tallow or lard," he said.
Pyne remains confident that the battle against saturated fats in New Zealand and Australia's foodstuffs can be won with the ongoing collaboration between food safety and health authorities.
"I look forward to hearing the out comes of this collaboration, especially in what you recommend to further reducing trans fats in our food supply in the context of a balanced diet," he added.