23 september 2015

WHO advocates legislation on trans fats in all products in Europe Level playing field with good health standards for trans fats coming closer

Recent the World Health Organization (WHO) published a policy brief about how to eliminate trans fats from the diet in Europe. The report presents an analysis of the policy options available for eliminating or reducing trans fats in the food-supply chain. Trans fats are fatty acids that increase the risk of coronary heart disease. Unfortunately in some eastern European countries their intake is not as low as in the Netherlands and other western European countries.


Across some countries in eastern Europe and the Balkan region in particular, intake of trans fats is still high. Several policy options exist to reduce trans-fat intake, including legislative limits on trans-fat content, voluntary reductions by the food industry, and mandatory labelling of trans fats. In order to evaluate these three options the WHO looked which policies are:

  • effective in targeting all products containing trans fats that are available on the market, and specifically in ensuring that low-cost foods do not go unaffected;
  • effective in targeting all socio-economic groups (so as to not contribute to increasing health inequalities);
  • low-cost (to governments and industry) and uncomplicated implementation and monitoring

The WHO concludes that a legal limit for the content of trans fats in all foods is likely to be the most effective option and potentially the only option available that reduces the risks associated with trans fats faced by all consumers. They state in the policy brief: ‘Such a policy is unique in its combination of efficacy, cost-effectiveness and low potential for negative impact.’


The Netherlands

In the Netherlands intake of trans fats is already at a very low level (0.5 percent of energy) and well below the allowable level of 1 percent of energy. In the Netherlands it is therefore not a public health issue any more. This is due to voluntary self-regulation by the Dutch Food industry that amongst other mitigating measurements unitedly ran a Task Force until intakes of trans fats were below maximum level.


Proposed legislation

Knowing that in some eastern European countries intake of trans fats is not low enough, the WHO proposes legislation, to be able to assure in those countries that no product contains high levels of trans fats. MVO strives for a level playing field with good health standards and legislation might help achieving this. Furthermore legislation makes the current mandatory labelling of (partial) hydrogenation unnecessary and even misleading.


Click here for the full WHO Policy Brief.

Laatst gewijzigd: 23 september 2015