Dairy industry seeks policy rethink on saturated fats

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Saturated fat, Butter, Nutrition

The European Dairy Association (EDA) has hosted a conference to push the case for a rethink of attitudes to saturated fat in advance of proposed tax and public policy changes.

The trade body chose the Danish Parliament as the venue for the International Conference on Saturated Fat on Friday after the Danish government proposed a saturated fat tax in its spring budget.

Danish fat tax

Under the plans, dairy products such as butter and cheese will be levied at 25 kroner per kilo. The Danish Dairy Board claims this translates to a 30 per cent increase in the retail price of a 250 gram pack of butter and will do more to fatten the state coffers than slim Danish waistlines.

Supporting the efforts of the Danish trade association, EDA organised saturated fat conference in the country to publicise scientific evidence highlighting the pitfalls of the tax.

The conference is also timed to coincide with the public consultation on Dietary Reference Values for fat proposed by a panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The panel recommendations are that fat intake should make up between 20 and 35 per cent of total energy intake while trans- and saturated fat intake should be “kept as low as possible”.

It is important for EDA to communicate its views on saturated fats before the 15 October deadline for public consultation because the published advice from EFSA will influence European public policy.

Health benefits

The EDA secretary general Joop Kleibeuker said decision makers should be wary about generalising when formulating policy on saturated fat.

Kleibeuker told FoodNavigator.com that not all saturated fats are the same and that some short chain fatty acids are known to actually reduce cholesterol.

Talking specifically about dairy products, he said they contain essential nutrients and that there is no evidence that they have a negative impact on health. The Danish tax on saturated fat would therefore penalise dairy consumers without improving public health, according to the EDA.

Conference speakers

To publicise these arguments the EDA invited several leading scientists to its saturated fat conference in Denmark last week to talk about the lastest science on milk fat.

Professor Philippe Legrand from Agrocampus-INRA in France emphasised the differences between different types of saturated fatty acids and the benefits of some of those contained in milk.

Professor Bruce German from University of Davis in California, US, spoke about the important role of milk fat in our evolution, and Professor Peter Elwood of Cardiff University in the UK, underlined the health benefits of milk and the need for better research into the long term health impact of eating products.

Related topics: Policy, Reformulation, Fats & oils

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