Health Medical

WHO boss Tedros wants to ‘banish’ trans fats


HQ Team

February 6, 2023: Nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat still do not have a best-practice policy in place, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

They are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea.

The UN agency has called for the complete elimination of industrially produced trans fat from the global food supply by the end of this year, director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in commentary published on the public health agency’s website.

There are two best-practice policy alternatives, the agency’s boss explained.

  • The first is a national limit of two grams of industrially produced trans fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods. 
  • The second is a national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat).

“To date, more than 40 countries accounting for more than one-third of the world’s population had implemented one of WHO’s best-practice policies on trans fat,” Tedros wrote on 3 February.

A serial killer

“Trans fat is a killer: up to 500 000 people a year die worldwide from the consequences of eating it. Trans fat increases LDL (or ‘bad’) cholesterol, the compound that clogs arteries and causes heart attacks and deaths from heart disease. 

“Food should be a source of health, not a cause of disease. It’s time to banish trans fat to the dustbin of history,” he added.

Positive signs

In 2021, US-based multinational food manufacturer Cargill Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of edible oils, committed to eliminating trans fat from their products by the end of 2023 

WHO is in contact with other producers, encouraging them to “follow suit.”

In 2019, the International Food and Beverage Alliance, representing several of the world’s largest food companies, committed to the same target. Some of those member commitments are listed here.

Most trans fat comes from artificial, industrially produced partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHO), and is used in many baked foods, frying oils, fried foods and hardened fats, like margarine and vegetable ‘ghee’. They are cheap and increase the shelf life of processed food.

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