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Trans fat levels coming down, but not everywhere, says Heart and Stroke Foundation

The good, the bad and the ugly
Trans fat levels coming down, but not everywhere, says Heart and Stroke Foundation

Toronto, December 20, 2007

The release today of Health Canada’s first set of trans-fat monitoring data clearly shows that progress is being made by some companies in eliminating trans fats form frequently consumed food products, says the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

“Many companies have made significant progress in reducing trans fats, which we applaud,” notes Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and co-chair of the national Trans Fat Task Force. “But other companies do not seem to be getting the message. This monitoring data will help get that message to consumers.”

Burger King comes through in the data as the “King of Trans Fat,” with unacceptably high levels of trans fat in many of its products, which raises concerns about whether the company cares about the heart health of its customers, said Brown.

The Trans Fat Task Force issued a report in 2006 recommending that processed trans fats be limited to no more than 5% of total fat. The federal government accepted this recommendation in 2007 and gave the food industry two years to reduce the amount of heart-clogging trans fat in its foods, with government monitoring of trans fat levels in Canadian foods every six months in the interim.

“Congratulations are due to Health Minister Tony Clement and Health Canada for collecting, analyzing and publishing this data as promised, so that the public has ready access to reliable information on where deadly trans fats can still be found in our foods, “said Ms. Brown.

The table below shows Burger King’s lack of progress against the Task Force targets:

Burger King - “The King of Trans Fat

Product Name

Sampling Date

Trans Fat (% of total fat)

Number of times higher than task force recommendation

Chicken Nuggets

March 2007

23.6

4.7 times higher

Fish Filet

March 2007

37.7

7.5 times higher

French Fries

Oct 2006

43.8

8.8 times higher

Apple Turnover

April 2007

40.1

8 times higher

Hash Browns

March 2007

41.9

8.4 times higher

Onion Rings

May 2007

19.9

4 times higher

“Overall, fast-food restaurants are clearly still facing challenges, particularly in removing trans AND replacing them with healthier alternatives,” says Ms. Brown. “Health Canada’s analysis of donuts underlines this problem, where those companies that have been successful in lowering trans fats seem to have replaced them with only slightly less harmful saturated fats.”

“Good progress has been made in the retail sector, where most foods have had to include trans fat in the Nutrition Facts table on product packages for two years,” Ms Brown notes.  “Heart and Stroke Foundation polls show that the 75% of Canadians are aware of the harmful effects of trans fats, but they need to be able to identify them. Nutrition information needs to be readily available in restaurants, so that consumers can be aware of which menu items contain trans, as well as those that have higher levels of saturated fats, sodium and calories.”

The Foundation noted that many fast food outlets have made improvements, with several outlets of Cara Operations Limited, for example, reducing trans fats substantially without increasing saturated fats. “Swiss Chalet, one of the Cara brands, was the first national restaurant chain to join the Foundation’s Health Check program and offer Health Check menu options,” says Brown. “We look forward to working with other restaurants to improve Canadians’ choices when they eat out.”

The ideal nutritious menu for Canadians is to prepare home cooked meals using fresh ingredients, but that is not the way many Canadians eat today, according to Brown. “Canadians purchase 40% of their meals out of home, so it’s critical that, while we encourage them to prepare their own healthy meals, we’re also present in the places where they frequently eat, and helping them to make better choices from what’s on offer.”

The Heart and Stroke Foundation has led the fight to remove trans fat from the Canadian food supply since 2004. Evidence shows that, on a gram per gram basis, trans fats are five to six times more deadly than saturated fats. The Foundation estimates that consumption of trans fats could account for 3,000 to 5,000 Canadian deaths annually from heart disease.

“At the end of the day, this first report on trans fat is mixed,” said Ms Brown. “For some, the road to meeting the Task Force’s recommendations is long, and time is short. We applaud those companies that have made progress and we challenge those that have not to significantly reduce trans fats as soon as possible.”

“Meanwhile, consumers can make their position clear with their feet, and their wallets.”

NOTE: Further Heart and Stroke Foundation analysis of Health Canada’s trans fat monitoring data is below.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation, a volunteer-based health charity, leads in eliminating heart disease and stroke and reducing their impact through the advancement of research and its application, the promotion of healthy living, and advocacy.

For more information/interviews, contact:

Jane-Diane Fraser
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
613-569-4361, ext 273
jfraser@hsf.ca

Below are the trans fat and saturated fat levels contained in the chicken products, donuts (chocolate) and French fries from various companies.

(Source: Trans Fat Monitoring Program, First Set of Trans Fat Monitoring Data, Food Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Health Canada, December 2007)

Chicken Products

                               

Company

Product Name

Sampling Date

Trans Fat*

Saturated Fat*

HIGH PERCENTAGE OF TRANS FAT

Burger King

Chicken Nuggets

March 2007

23.6

25.0

TRANS FAT LESS THAN 5% OF TOTAL FAT

A&W

Chicken Strips

March 2007

2.1

8.4

Boston Pizza

Chicken Fingers

Sept 2007

<0.1

6.9

Casey’s

Fried Chicken Strips

March 2007

1.0

11.3

Harvey’s

Chicken Strips

March 2007

1.2

10.8

KFC

Crispy Strip Chicken

March 2007

0.8

9.4

McDonald’s

Chicken Nuggets

March 2007

2.5

23.8

Montana’s

Chicken Nuggets

March 2007

1.0

10.1

Pizza Pizza

Boneless Chicken Bites

March 2007

1.9

18.9

Swiss Chalet

Chicken Strips

March 2007

0.9

10.0

Wendy’s

Chicken Nuggets

Oct 2007

1.8

17.7

*Trans fats and saturated fats are listed as a percentage of total fat. In the case of trans fats, less than 5% implies significantly reduced harm.

Donuts (chocolate)
               

Company

Product Name

Sampling Date

Trans Fat*

Saturated Fat*

HIGH PERCENTAGE OF TRANS FAT

Coffee Time

Raised Chocolate

Oct 2006

26.1

23.3

Dunkin’ Donuts

Chocolate Glazed

Nov 2006

40.1

23.2

Krispy Kreme

Chocolate Glazed

Nov 2006

29.1

26.7

Robin’s Donuts

Chocolate

Oct 2006

37.1

21.0

TRANS FAT LESS THAN 5% OF TOTAL FAT

Country Style

Marble Chocolate

Coated

Oct 2006

0.6

51.4

Tim Horton’s

Chocolate Glazed

Sept 2006

1.4

47.3

*Trans fats and saturated fats are listed as a percentage of total fat. In the case of trans fats, less than 5% implies significantly reduced harm.

French Fries

 

Company

  Product Name

Sampling Date

Trans Fat*

Saturated Fat*

HIGH PERCENTAGE OF TRANS FATS

A& W

French Fries

Oct 2006

34.9

17.2

Arby’s

French Fries (Curly Fries)

April 2007

30.2

11.3

Burger King

French Fries

Oct 2006

43.8

22.6

Mandarin

French Fries

April 2007

7.5

10.4

Wendy’s

French Fries

Oct 2007

6.8

14.7

TRANS FAT LESS THAN 5% OF TOTAL FAT

Boston Pizza

French Fries

Sept 2007

0.2

6.1

Kelsey’s

French Fries

March 2007

1.3

9.1

KFC

French Fries

March 2007

1.7

8.0

McDonald’s

French Fries

Oct 2007

4.2

26.0

Montana’s

French Fries

March 2007

2.9

9.4

Mrs. Vanelli’s Restaurant

French Fries

April 2007

2.0

17.1

New York Fries

French Fries

Oct 2007

0.9

8.1

Pizza Pizza

French Fries

March 2007

2.3

17.9

Swiss Chalet

French Fries

March 2007

0.9

9.4

Taco Bell

French Fries

April 2007

1.8

8.0

*Trans fats and saturated fats are listed as a percentage of total fat. In the case of trans fats, less than 5% implies significantly reduced harm.

Health Canada
Trans Fat main pag:e
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/gras-trans-fats/index_e.html

:Trans Fat Monitoring Program main page
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/gras-trans-fats/tfa-age_tc-tm_e.html

Trans Fat Monitoring Program data tables main page
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/gras-trans-fats/tfa-age_e.html

Trans Fat Monitoring Program Methodology main page
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/gras-trans-fats/meth_e.html

Trans Fat Monitoring Program Qs and As
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/gras-trans-fats/tfa-age_question_e.html



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