The regulation will limit trans fats to 2% of the total fat in food. As in Austria, specific limitations will be set for low fat products, allowing 4 g of trans fats per 100 g of the product if total fat content is 3-20% of the product's weight, or 10 g per 100 g if fat content is less than 3%.
Food manufacturers will have a two year transition period with full compliance required from 1 January 2018 onward.
Sanita Lazdiņa, senior expert in health promotion at the Ministry of Health, told FoodNavigator a ban had been on the cards since 2012 but that government and industry had been negotiating the length of the transition period, with industry pushing for three years while the government wanted a ban to be fully implemented after one year.
Controls will begin as soon as the transition period is over.
“In order to control the implementation of the new regulation the State Food and Veterinary Service will carry out additional food controls starting from 2018 and send food product samples to the laboratory for testing the level of trans fatty acids in them,” said Lazdiņa.
While many manufacturers in Western Europe have voluntarily reduced their use of trans fats, they remain common in Eastern Europe with a 2012 study showing that some Eastern Europeans could consume as much as 30 g per day – a worrying figure given that consumption of 5 g per day is associated with a 23% increased risk of coronary heart disease.
But according to the Latvian ministry of health, some food producers in the Baltic state have already started reducing or completely cutting out trans fats from chocolate, biscuits, waffles and ice cream.
In July this year the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) urged EU lawmakers to follow the US and ban trans fats, by revoking their GRAS (Generally recognised as safe) status.
But a report by the European Commission on the use and labelling of trans-fatty acids in foods and its effect on Europeans’ diet and health has been overdue since December 2014, prompting exasperated MEPs to urge the Commission to stop dragging its feet.
Often used in commercial bakery products, partially hydrogenated oils are the main source of artificial trans fats in the food supply.
According to the ESC, the detrimental effect that trans fats have on heart health and mortality and "beyond dispute", while cardiovascular disease is responsible for 47% of all deaths in Europe, or 4 million deaths each year.