Notice Board

Health Department to regulate trans fats in foods

Health Department to regulate trans fats in foods

The Department of Health is in the process of consulting with stakeholders with the intention to develop legislation aimed at the reduction of certain trans-fats, in particular trans fatty acids deriving from the process of partial hydrogenation of vegetable oil, present in certain processed and prepared foods currently for sale in South Africa.

The development and implementation of the legislation will contribute significantly to the reduction in risk of chronic lifestyle related diseases, associated with the presence of trans fatty acids in the diet of South Africans, in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, which was adopted in May 2004, at the 57th World Health Assembly (WHA).

The Global Strategy fosters the formulation of national policies to improve, amongst others, diet, which provides a unique opportunity for the Department to assume a central role, through cooperation with relevant stakeholders, to implement regulatory measures that would reduce the intake of man-made trans fatty acids.

Man-made trans-fats, also referred to as Industrially Processed-Trans Fatty Acids (IP-TFAs), have been identified by scientists worldwide, including the World Health Organization, to be one of the major factors contributing to the global pandemic of chronic lifestyle related diseases, such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and obesity.

Natural occurring trans fatty acids in animal fats e.g. in dairy products and meat, may have health benefits and are therefore excluded from the proposed new legislation.

Manufacturers could use either alternative technologies for the processing of vegetable oil without the harmful effects on health of the current technology resulting in IP-TFAs, or choose to use more appropriate types of fats and oils in their products.

It should further be noted that countries such as Denmark, Canada and the FDA and New York City Department of Health in the US, have introduced similar legislation since 2003. The introduction of the legislation was accomplished without noticeable effects on the availability, price or quality of foods previously containing high amounts of industrially processed trans fatty acids.

All manufactured and/or pre-packaged foodstuffs, as well as foods prepared by restaurants and fast food outlets, currently sold in South Africa, which generally contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (IP-TFAs) as an ingredient, or where such oil is used for deep frying purposes, will be affected by the proposed legislation. As a result, it is the intention of the Department of Health to consult with and provide an opportunity for those members of the food industry who will be affected, to give inputs or comments on the proposed new legislation.

To start the process, the Department of Health will be conducting a workshop on 22 October 2009. The purpose of the workshop is to provide an opportunity for inputs on the way forward and representatives of the industry, bodies dealing with lifestyle relate diseases, such as CANSA, as well as academic and research institutions involved in the promotion of healthy nutrition, have been invited to participate.

Source: Issued by the Department of Health

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For more information please contact Fidel Hadebe on 012 312-0663 or 079 517-3333.

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