Putting anti-trans into gear

Tran-fats have been on the way out for a while, but largely in Western economies. The rest of the world has yet to reduce the artery clogging foods in their diets.

The costs to societies that can’t afford the health losses are significant.

The World Health Organization reported last week that more than 500,000 people die each year from heart disease after consuming the unhealthy fats, largely showing up in processed and baked foods.

More than 45 nations have been curbing trans-fats from their diets, but many countries, especially in the developing world and in emerging economies, haven’t set it as a priority.

Trans-fatty acids, the ones that are man-made, are created when vegetable oils have hydrogen added to them to create a solid, more stable form, a partially hydrogenated oil. A few come to us in dairy products and meat.

Getting trans-fat use down outside the first-world is critical says WHO. It suggests moves to canola and non-trans sources needs to take place sooner rather than later, saying that people shouldn’t be receiving more than one percent of their fat this way.

Next month, the United States, will require food manufacturers to stop selling food containing artificial trans-fats. Canada’s ban will take place Sept. 15.

The stabilizing effects of trans-fats in food manufacturing made them attractive to food processors, but they were also popular in the home. Crisco, one of the first products developed using the new process went on the market in 1910. These products were sold after the Second World War as a healthier choice when compared to lard or dairy fat. Epidemic levels of heart disease followed.

By 2006 food processors were required to start labeling trans-fat content in their products in North America and New York City, followed by many other municipal jurisdictions. Restaurants were forces to stop using them.

Denmark cut them in 2014 and death rates from cardiovascular disease dropped markedly, as did costly disease treatment and lost productivity in its workforce.

For a good look at what the Canadian food industry suggests are healthy approaches to trans-fats, as well as saturated fatty acids read our Barbara Duckworth’s story in your May 17 Western Producer.

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