WHO launches plan to eliminate trans fats within five years

09:41 | 15/05/2018

The World Health Organization (WHO) wants to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats by 2023, unveiling a plan on Monday (May 14) that it said would prevent 500,000 deaths per year from cardiovascular disease.

who launches plan to eliminate trans fats within five years
A cook preparing french fries. (Saul LOEB / AFP)

Trans fats are popular with manufacturers of fried, baked and snack foods because they have a long shelf life, but they are bad for consumers, increasing the risk of heart disease by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent, a WHO statement said.

"Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?" WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.

The WHO initiative, called REPLACE, provides guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods. The six strategic points of action are:

  • Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  • Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  • Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  • Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Several high-income nations have already virtually eliminated trans fats by putting limits on the amounts allowed in packaged foods. Some have banned partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats, the WHO said.

"Trans-fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there's no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed," said Tom Frieden, a former head of the US Centers for Disease Control who now leads the Resolve health initiative.

Earlier this month, WHO issued its first draft recommendations on trans fats since 2002, saying adults and children should consume a maximum of one per cent of their daily calories in the form of trans fats.

This translates to less than 2.2g per day with a 2,000-calorie diet.

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