Sainsbury's has promised to remove HVOs from its entire range of own brand goods by 1 January 2007, while Tesco has set a date for the end of the year.
Marks & Spencer has already stopped using hydrogenated vegetable oil in its food production.
These initiatives reflect growing consumer and regulatory concern over HVOs, which have been linked to the creation of trans fats. Sainsbury's for example said it has been working on the removal of HVOs for over a year and to date has removed a minimum of 383 tonnes of HVO from its cakes alone.
In addition, Sainsbury's said that it would be removing flavour enhancers from all own brand food and drink by the same 1 January 2007 deadline.
"With over 15,000 own brand food and drink products, the complete removal of hydrogenated vegetable oils and flavour enhancers has been a huge piece of work," said Judith Batchelar, director of Sainsbury's brands.
"Given the scale, this has been a big challenge for us but we have kept sight of how important it is to our customers and are pleased to name our deadline."
HVOs are often used by manufacturers to provide key functional properties in food and drink, such as regulating structure and hardness. However a by-product of this hydrogenation is trans fats and these have been linked LDL cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease.
In the US, where the labelling of trans fats became mandatory on 1 January 2006, consumer awareness is high. But pressure is growing in Europe. Recent research published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has increased the pressure on both consumers and food manufacturers.
Researchers from the University of Oxford wrote in BMJ Vol. 333 (p214), that food labels should list all fats, arguing that such a move is vital in the fight to combat the UK's number one killer. According to the Oxford University researchers, a recent analysis of all the evidence recommended that people should reduce or stop their dietary intake of trans fatty acids to minimise the related risk of coronary heart disease.
It has been estimated that cardiovascular disease (CVD) causes almost 50 per cent of deaths in Europe.
Some Member States have already taken action. Denmark recently became the first country in the world to introduce restrictions on the use of industrially produced trans fats. Oils and fats are now banned from the Danish market if they contain more than 2 per cent trans fat.
There has been growing pressure for the whole of Europe to follow Denmark's example and force food makers to clearly label the presence of trans fats. For example, this is the thinking behind the UK Campaign Against Trans Fats in Food, a web-based organisation that aims to put pressure on industry and regulators and raise awareness of the dangers of trans fats.
The UK Food Standards Agency is now pressing for revision of the European directive that governs the content and format of nutrition labels on foods marketed in the United Kingdom and other European countries, so that these fats are labelled.