IFST publishes trans fat information statement

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Trans fatty acids Nutrition

The UK's Institute of Food Science & Technology has published
an updated information statement on trans fatty acids one of the
hottest topics in the food industry at the moment.

The publication confirms the growing scientific consensus that trans fatty acids (TFAs) are unhealthy and is likely to put further pressure on the food industry to cut out trans fats wherever possible.

"Trans fatty acids, like saturated fatty acids (SFA), raise LDL (or bad) cholesterol levels in the blood, thereby increasing the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD),"​ said the IFST.

" IFST supports the WHO recommendations and subsequent recommendations from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and authorities elsewhere, that manufacturers should reduce the levels of TFA arising from hydrogenation; and notes the progress that industry has made in that direction."

The good news for the food industry is that there is growing recognition that action has been taken.

"There is clear evidence that in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe) the industry has responded positively to the various recommendations,"​ said the information statement.

"Further reductions in TFA have been effected in major brands of margarine in the UK. For example some soft margarines had eight to 12 per cent TFA in 1994 and now have less than one per cent, while TFA in packet margarines have been reduced from 18 to 26 per cent to 10 to 12 per cent."

Over £1.5billion worth of food products in the UK alone are being reformulated in order to eliminate harmful trans fats, according to the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). And on 31 January, the British Retail Consortium announced that its members, including all the major food retailers, would voluntarily remove industrially added TFA from all new stocks of own brand products by the end of this year.

The IFST also noted that recent dietary surveys indicate that TFA intakes have decreased in a number of EU countries, mainly due to the reformulation of food products to reduce the TFA content.

However, a detailed fatty acid analysis of over 200 foods for the purpose of determining the variability in TFA content among foods within a product category showed that the amount of TFA varies considerably among foods within a category, reflecting differences in the fats and oils used in the manufacturing or preparation process.

For example, the range of TFA in 17 brands of crackers was 23 to 51 per cent total fatty acids, representing differences of from 1 to 13 g trans fatty acids per 100 g cracker.

The IFST said that the study showed the wide variability in TFA content of different foods, and could result in large errors in the estimation of TFA intake of individuals and, potentially, groups.

The general message of the information statement is therefore that progress has been made, but more needs to be done, both scientifically and practically. The IFST said that it would continue to support the need for continuing research in this whole area.

The Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST) is the independent professional qualifying body for food scientists and technologists. It is totally independent of government, of industry, and of any lobbying groups or special interest groups.

Related topics Fats & oils

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