Food & Beverage
May 14, 2018
World Health Organization calls for elimination of trans fat in all foods
"In South Asian countries, they have very, very high risk of heart disease and high intakes of trans fats", says specialist
The World Health Organization wants to eliminate artificial trans fats from the global food supply and has a step-by-step strategy on how to do so by 2023.
On Monday, the WHO launched an initiative called REPLACE that will provide guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods, possibly leading to a worldwide eradication.
"This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats," said Dr. Francesco Branca, director of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the WHO in Geneva, Switzerland.
Artificial trans fats, or trans fatty acids, are made when vegetable oil hardens in a process called hydrogenation. Those hydrogenated fats are often used in processed foods or baked goods, because they don't spoil as quickly as other fats, but they can have some harmful health effects, such as raising levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and increasing risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
"There are countries where the risk is particularly high. In South Asian countries, they have very, very high risk of heart disease and high intakes of trans fats," Branca said.
"There are some Latin American countries, but they're already taking action. Mexico was a country where the intake was very high," he said. "South Africa was having problems, but then they established legislation. It is happening in more countries in the Middle East, but the information we have is limited."
REPLACE stands for review dietary sources, promote use of healthier fats, legislate, assess changes, create awareness and enforce.
The REPLACE package is the first time the WHO is calling for the elimination of something other than a noncommunicable disease, said Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of the public health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
Resolve to Save Lives, a partner of the WHO and a part of the nonprofit Vital Strategies, plans to provide assistance to countries to support the REPLACE strategies in eliminating artificial trans fats.