European trans fat report 'could lead to ban'

By Joyeeta Basu contact

- Last updated on GMT

Economically disadvantaged groups are likely to consume more trans fats, said Professor Stender at the meeting
Economically disadvantaged groups are likely to consume more trans fats, said Professor Stender at the meeting

Related tags: Trans fats, European union

The European Commission will consider action on industrially produced trans fats in foods following a high-level debate, said a spokesperson at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).

The Commission said it is considering options on how to proceed and whether it will make a suggestion for legislation to ban the use of trans fats in Europe or not. The report is likely to be released in June,​” said the ESC spokesperson.

It was agreed that it is a fact that trans fats have a negative influence on coronary heart diseases and there was a general agreement among participants that the Commission should come forward with a strong proposal​."

The Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Heart Group meeting, held yesterday​, heard from experts about the health implications of trans fats, and how some member states have acted to remove them from the food chain.

‘Report under review’

In December 2014 the commission was expected to present a report on the presence of trans fats in foods and in overall diet in the EU population. “The ESC has always been concerned with cardio health and the coronary risks factors associated with trans fats. We were expecting the Commission to publish a report in December 2014 and when the deadline passed, we became vocal​,” the spokesperson added.

It was also suggested at the debate that MEPs should write a letter to the College of Commissioners and that the EC should take concrete action on trans fats.

The Commission has confirmed that the report is in the pipeline and is under review. We hope it will contain what we want.​”

Consumers and trans fats

It was suggested that consumers found it confusing to read food labels and assess whether industrially produced trans fats were good or bad for them, said the spokesperson.

Professor Steen Stender of the University of Copenhagen said that while average intake of harmful trans fats or trans fatty acids (TFAs) in Europe had dropped considerably since the 1970’s, it masked differences in consumption levels between different countries and social groups.

Notably, people from economically disadvantaged groups are likely to consume more TFAs by way of diet consisting of more processed foods​,” he said.“Action is needed now​.”

Trans fats and other countries

To date, only three EU Member States - Austria, Denmark and Hungary - had adopted legislation to restrict industrially produced trans fats in the food chain. It is estimated that thousands of lives and billions of euros could be saved if these measures were introduced more widely, said Vice-President of the Parliament Mairead McGuinness who chaired the meeting.

Legislative measures are needed to reduce the amount of industrially produced trans fatty acids found in processed foods consumed by European citizens to the detriment of their health.​”

McGuinness added that though many food companies have reformulated products to take out the harmful trans fats, there are still some food products which contain these fats. “And we know from the experience of three member states that legislation works.​”

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