FSA: board recommends voluntary approach for trans fats

The Agency’s Board is to recommend to UK health ministers that voluntary measures to reduce trans fats in food have resulted in such low consumer intakes that mandatory restrictions are not
necessary, the decision was made by the Agency’s Board at its open meeting today.

The FSA was asked by the Health Secretary in October 2007 to undertake a review of trans fats in light of action that has been taken in Denmark and New York City to impose mandatory
restrictions on these types of fats.

A review of the evidence showed that voluntary action by the UK food industry has already delivered consumer benefits equivalent to the most restrictive legislation. As a consequence, average
dietary intakes in the UK have come down to just 1% of food energy – half of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN) recommended maximum intake. SACN recommends that the average
trans fat intake should not exceed 2% of food energy.

It is impossible to completely eliminate trans fats from food as they naturally occur in some meat and dairy products.

Saturated fat poses a far greater health risk for the UK population than trans fat because the amount people eat is well above the recommended level of 11% – at around 13.3%. Saturated fat is a
major contributor to heart disease, which is the leading cause of premature death in this country.

Therefore, the Board recommended that alongside continued monitoring of consumer intakes of trans fats, the Agency’s priority should be to work with industry to step up its reformulation of
foods to reduce saturated fat levels. The Agency will also continue to encourage consumers to choose a diet that is low in saturated fat.

Chair of the Agency, Dame Deirdre Hutton, said: ‘The voluntary reduction of trans fats is a great illustration of a regulator and industry working together for the benefit of public health. I’m
delighted that industry has responded so positively to this issue and I think this decision provides a springboard for our future work on salt and saturated fat.’

The Agency will make its recommendation to the Secretary of State by 19 December 2007 and the Department of Health will make the final decision as to whether further legislation is required.

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