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Eliminating trans fat

The two-year anniversary of the trans fat voluntary reduction period is over.

Artificial trans fats, introduced into the Canadian food supply in the 1970s as a means of extending the shelf life of food products, have absolutely no nutritional value and are extremely harmful for heart health.

If all artificial trans fats were replaced with a healthier alternative, thousands of cardiac deaths could be averted in Canada annually.

The federal government commissioned a multi-stakeholder Trans Fat Task Force in 2005 to address this issue. In June of 2007, the Minister of Health, the Honourable Tony Clement, responded to the release of the Task Force final report, TRANSforming the Food Supply. He endorsed the trans fat levels recommended by the report, stating that:

“We are giving industry two years to reduce trans fats to the lowest levels possible as recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force. If significant progress has not been made over the next two years, we will regulate to ensure the levels are met.” (Health Canada press release, June 20, 2007).

Some food companies have taken strides in eliminating artificial trans fats – while others have not. Unfortunately, there remain too many products that continue to contain disturbingly high amounts of these fats. This includes many foods often consumed by children such as cakes, donuts and brownies. The bakery sector in particular, including between 33% and 75% of some of these products, continues to be riddled with unnecessarily high levels of trans fats.

Denmark, Switzerland, California and many cities in the United States have trans fat regulations. In Canada, British Columbia implemented trans fat regulations in September 2009.

 

The absence of federal regulations in Canada is leading to a patchwork of approaches across the country, creating an uneven playing field for businesses and unequal health benefits for Canadians.

The government’s two-year voluntary period has come to an end. Trans fat levels are still too high, especially in baked goods.

The verdict is in. Canada urgently needs trans fat regulations to protect our children and all Canadians. The time to move forward is now.

Posted January 2010.