“California has become the first US state to ban restaurants and food retailers from using trans-fats”, BBC News reported. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the governor of California, has pledged to phase out the use of trans-fats in Californian restaurants by 2010 and trans-fats in baked goods will be removed by 2011.
Trans-fats are artificially created fats used in the manufacture of foods. They increase shelf life and the flavour-stability of foods. They are also often found in fast food, cakes and biscuits.
In Europe, Denmark has banned all but trace amounts of trans-fats in food since 2003. The use of trans-fats has also been banned in restaurants in New York City since July 1 2008. California will phase out their use completely by 2011.
Schwarzenegger is quoted as saying: "Consuming trans-fat is linked to coronary heart disease”. Trans-fats have been shown in many studies to increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) by increasing levels of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein – LDL) and decreasing levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein – HDL) in the blood.
In light of the US restrictions, in December 2007, Alan Johnson, the health secretary, asked the Food Standards Agency to look at:
The report concluded that there was evidence to show that trans-fats increase the risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), but that evidence linking trans-fats to obesity and cancers was lacking.
Based on evidence of the adverse effects of these fatty acids on risk of CHD, it is recommended that trans-fats should contribute no more than 2% food energy. In the most recent survey of UK food trends, trans-fats made up 1.2% of food energy (according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in 2000/1). This is well below the current recommended intakes of trans-fats and is almost half the US average dietary intake (estimated to be 2.6% of food energy).
Since January 2008, members of the British Retail Consortium, which include the major UK supermarkets and fast food chains, have stopped using trans-fats as an ingredient in foods. However, food manufactured outside of the UK, such as in Europe or the US, could still contain trans-fats.
The Food Standards Agency has proposed changes to food labelling in the UK which will mean that consumers will be able to see the amount of trans-fats in the foods they consume. People can also look at the list of ingredients in their food, if "partially hydrogenated fat/oil" or "hydrogenated fat/oil," is listed, the food contains trans-fat.
Until any new labelling is implemented, the Food Standards Agency recommends that people should be aware of their fat intake in general. It is well-known that trans-fats are linked to an increased risk of CHD and, as part of a healthy diet, consumption should be reduced.