Coca-Cola/ McDonald’s pledge to phase out industrially processed trans-fat

The International Food and Beverage Alliance’s (IFBA) has pledged to phase out industrially processed trans-fat from the global food supply by 2023. The commitment sets an interesting precedent with regards to how other ‘food villains’ are tackled in processed foods, says GlobalData, a  data and analytics company.

IFBA comprises 12 food and beverage powerhouses including The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Nestle and Unilever. The pledge comes a year after the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an initiative to provide guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods, with a view to eradicating the ingredient worldwide by 2023.

WHO has singled out industrially-produced trans fats as the cause of over 500,000 deaths from coronary heart disease globally each year, and its elimination from the food supply represents a simple and effective way to save lives.

While trans fats are unmistakably linked to a range of harmful outcomes, it is by far the only contributor to dietary-related health problems. As the health impacts of other ingredients such as salt, sugar and saturated fats are increasingly scrutinized, it will be interesting to see how WHO implements similar commitments and, more significantly, how the food and drink giants respond.

Katrina Diamonon, Consumer Insights Analyst at GlobalData, says: “It is far easier for brands to employ other health-promoting initiatives such as portion control, clear nutritional information and responsible marketing. However, enacting changes with regards to product ingredients and formulation is an entirely different undertaking. This trans fat pledge may represent a ‘slippery slope’ that brands will need to navigate if WHO continues to crack down on renowned food villains.”

WHO plan to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids worldwide

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released ‘Replace’, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives: WHO estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods, and fried foods. Manufacturers  often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.

“WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply,”said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help  achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in  the  global  fight against cardiovascular disease.”

REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply:

  • REview dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  • Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  • Assess and monitor trans fats content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  • Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policy makers, producers, suppliers, and the public.
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable OECD countries.

“New York City eliminated industrially-produced trans fat a decade ago, following Denmark’s lead,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. “Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed.”

Action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.

Elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply has been identified as one of the priority targets of WHO’s strategic plan, the draft 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13) which will guide the work of WHO in 2019 – 2023. GPW13 is on the agenda of  the 71st World Health Assembly that will be held in Geneva on 21 – 26 May 2018. As part of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, the global community has committed to reducing premature death from noncommunicable diseases by one-third by 2030. Global elimination of industrially-produced trans fats can help achieve this goal.

Image: WHO

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER

JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER
Close