4/7/2005 - The French Food Standards Agency (Agence Francaise de SecuriteSanitaire des Aliments) has produced a comprehensive report (in French) onthe risk and benefits of trans fatty acids. It considers both the isomersof conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which occur naturally, and those whichare the result of industrial processes such as the hydrogenation ofvegetable oils.
The AFSSA report was commissioned by the DGCCRF (Direction generale de laconcurrence et de la repression des fraudes) to establish a definition fortrans fats, examine their sources and typical levels in foods, evaluatethe influence of methods of manufacture and storage on the production oftrans fats, estimate the levels of consumption of such fats in France andother European countries, assess their impact on consumer health andconsider what information should be provided for consumers about thepresence of trans fatty acids in food products. The report discusses thedecision by Denmark in June 2003, to restrict levels of industriallyproduced trans fatty acids in foods to 2% as well as decisions in the USand Canada to require a label indication of the level of trans fats in thefood, and the opinion on trans fats of the scientific panel on dieteticproducts, nutrition and allergies of the European Food Safety Authority,published in August 2004. A list of the main fatty acids found in food isgiven together with schematic diagrams of the structure of various types ofsaturated, unsaturated, cis- and trans fatty acids.
The origin of trans fatty acids in foods is primarily through three routesand these are covered in the report. They are the biohydrogenation of fatsby ruminant animals which result in the presence of small amount of thesesubstances in meat and dairy products (mainly conjugated linoleic acid),the catalytic hydrogenation of vegetable oils to harden them and make themsuitable for use in margarines and shortenings, and the heat treatment ofoils and fats and foods containing oils and fats, both industrially anddomestically. The consequences of consuming trans fatty acids areconsidered in terms of their metabolism, toxicity, effect on the immunesystem, their role in the development of obesity, metabolic syndrome,cardiovascular disease and cancers.
The working group which produced the report suggests that for bakeryproducts, biscuits, croissants and similar products, the level of transfatty acids should not exceed 1 g/100 g of the product as consumed. Fortable oils, trans fats should amount to no more than 0.5% of total fattyacids, and for margarines and shortenings, trans fats should be a maximumof 1% of total fatty acids. With regard to labelling, the amount of transfat in a product should be expressed as a percentage of total fat. Nolabel mention would be required on products which contained less than 0.1g/100 g of trans fat in the finished product or 0.1% of total fatty acidsin table oils, margarines and butter. It is also recommended that stepsshould be taken to reduce by 30% foods which are major contributors to theconsumption of trans fats, yet are of poor nutritional quality. Such foodsinclude croissants, patisseries, chocolate bars and biscuits, etc.
FoodNavigator.com (06/04/05) reports that trans fats will be on the agendafor the next Codex Alimentarius Committee meeting on food labelling inMalaysia from 9 - 13 May 2005.