Australia launches plan to cut trans fats
fatty acids in Australian food, it announced this week, despite
figures that suggest intake of the fats among the population is
within safe limits.
The new National Collaboration on Trans Fats will have input from the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
"While preliminary findings by FSANZ suggest that the current intake of trans fatty acids does not require immediate government regulatory intervention, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the issue and government welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with these organisations," said Christopher Pyne, secretary to the minister for health and ageing.
Dietary modelling work by FSANZ has found that Australians consume relatively low amounts of trans fats compared to some other countries. Australians' intake of trans fatty acids is well within World Health Organisation recommendations and nearly four times lower than the average American's intake.
However given global concerns about trans fats, and rising consumer concern, the new initiative will promote current industry and public health initiatives more widely and also raise consumer awareness of trans fats.
Trans fatty acids - also known as trans fats - are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated or 'hardened' for use as spreads such as margarine, cooking fats for deep-frying and shortening for baking. Foods high in trans or saturated fatty acids increase blood cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.
Food manufacturers in Australia are currently only required to list the presence of trans fatty acids in the nutrition information panel on food labels if the product makes a nutrition claim such as 'no cholesterol' or 'low in saturated fat' on the food. Some companies voluntarily list trans fats on their labels.
But FSANZ is considering whether to allow a health claim that a food is 'low in trans fatty acids and saturated fat which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease' when a new regulation on health claims is introduced next year.
The food safety body is also currently assessing trans fat intakes by Australians and New Zealanders and will use the results, due out in May next year, to review potential health risks.