FSA Board to advise the Department of Health to maintain successful voluntary approach for trans fats in food
Thursday 13 December 2007
The Food Standards Agency’s Board is to recommend to UK Health Ministers that voluntary measures to reduce trans fats in food have resulted in such low consumer intakes that mandatory restrictions are not necessary. The decision was made by the Agency’s Board at an open meeting today.
The FSA was asked by the Health Secretary in October 2007 to undertake a review of trans fats in light of action that has been taken in Denmark and New York City to impose mandatory restrictions on these types of fats.
A review of the evidence showed that voluntary action by the UK food industry has already delivered consumer benefits equivalent to the most restrictive legislation. As a consequence, average dietary intakes in the UK have come down to just 1% of food energy – half of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN) recommended maximum intake. SACN recommends that the average trans fat intake should not exceed 2% of food energy.
It is impossible to completely eliminate trans fats from food as they naturally occur in some meat and dairy products. However, saturated fat poses a far greater health risk for the UK population than trans fat as intakes are well above the recommended level of 11%. Current intakes of saturated fat in the UK are at about13.3%. Saturated fat is a major contributor to heart disease, which is the leading cause of premature death in this country.
Therefore, the Board recommended that alongside continued monitoring of consumer intakes of trans fats, the Agency’s priority is to work with industry to step up its reformulation of foods to reduce saturated fat levels. The Agency will also continue to encourage consumers to choose a diet that is low in saturated fat.
Agency Chair, Dame Deirdre Hutton said: 'The voluntary reduction of trans fats is a great illustration of a regulator and industry working together for the benefit of public health. I’m delighted that industry has responded so positively to this issue, and I think this decision provides a springboard for our future work on salt and saturated fat.'
The Agency will make its recommendation to the Secretary of State by 19 December 2007, and the Department of Health will have the final decision as to whether further legislation is required.
The review of evidence on the impact of trans fats on health was carried out by Professor Christine Williams’ team at Reading University and independently reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN).
The full SACN report can be found on the SACN website.
A recalculation of intakes based on UK dietary surveys estimates that trans fat intakes for the UK are at 1%. This paper can be found attached to the December Board Meeting agenda at the link below.
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