State to trim unhealthy trans fats in food
Restaurants, food manufacturers and fast-food outlets will have to revise their recipes due to government plans to reduce unhealthy trans fats in food.
Although naturally occurring trans fats in animal products, such as milk and meat are harmless, those made industrially from vegetable oils, have been linked to heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer and prostate cancer.
The fats have been used widely in the food industry for decades as they are cheap, palatable and have a long shelf life. But as awareness of health risks associated with trans fats has grown, more nations have moved to regulate their use, forcing large food companies and restaurants to find alternative ingredients.
The Department of Health said yesterday it would meet industry players and academics next week to discuss its plans to draft regulations to reduce the levels of unhealthy trans fats in all processed and prepared foods.
Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, said this week in Parliament that these regulations would be published for comment by year-end and would take effect by the end of March. There would be a six-month grace period to comply with the new laws.
The laws would affect all manufactured and prepackaged food sold in SA, as well as food prepared by restaurants and fast-food outlets. Trans fats are used widely in snacks and baked and fried goods.
Department of Health’s Food-Control Director, Andries Pretorius, said some South African food companies had begun to cut trans fats from their products. “We have noticed some products on the shelf saying they are trans fats-free. There is growing awareness in the industry,” he said. “Local margarine producers have also begun to use healthier fats”, he said.
Food giant Tiger Brands’ Corporate Affairs Manager, Bongiwe Njobe, said the company was committed to reducing the levels of trans fats in its portfolio of products, in line with global trends and national regulations once they had been finalised.
Dr. Carl Albrecht, Head of CANSA’s Research Department, welcomed the plans to regulate trans fats in SA. He said New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had “transformed the whole food industry” when he banned the use of trans fats in restaurants and bakeries. Fast-food chains McDonald’s and KFC stopped using trans fats in their US outlets last year, Albrecht said.
Source: This article was published by author, Tamar Kahn (Business Day), on 16 October 2009.
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