World Health Organization calls for the elimination of trans fats in foods

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global strategy called “REPLACE” that will guide countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their food supply by 2023. “This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats,” as stated by the director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO, Dr. Francesco Branca.

REPLACE stands for Review dietary sources, Promote use of healthier fats, Legislate, Assess changes, Create awareness and Enforce. The REPLACE plan is the first time the WHO is proposing a call-to-action on the removal of a chronic disease factor.

Chronic diseases, or non-communicable diseases, are a combined result of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors such as dietary intake. Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.

Artificial trans fats are made when vegetable oil hardens in a process called partial hydrogenation. Partially hydrogenated oils have been added to foods since the early twentieth century. They prolong shelf life and enhance the flavour and texture of many foods, including commercial baked goods, fried foods and snack foods, and are used in products such as vegetable shortening, stick margarine, coffee creamer and ready-to-use frostings. The intake of trans fats raises low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol” and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Industry produced trans fats differ from naturally occurring trans fats found in dairy and beef. No evidence of harmful effects has been identified from these food sources.

Last year, the Minister of Health, Ginette Petitpas Taylor, announced the final step to phase out the production of partially hydrogenated oils in all foods sold in Canada. The ban will come into effect September 12, 2018 to allow enough time for food manufacturers to find suitable alternatives.

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