(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli food manufacturers and importers will not have to make major changes to comply with the directive of the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate deadly trans-fatty acids in all foods by 2023.
Prof. Ronit Endevelt, head of the Health Ministry’s nutrition department, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that most food companies here have replaced artificial trans fats with safer alternatives, such as unsaturated fatty acids fats, rather than hydrogenated oils that become solid when exposed to a hydrogen gas. She advised that consumers read food labels.
For many years, trans fats were in baked goods of all kinds, such as burekas, doughnuts, cookies and crackers; ice cream; frostings; processed meat; nondairy coffee whiteners; commercially fried products, including those made from meats and poultry; and many other types of foods in Israel.
The WHO on Tuesday released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply. The UN body estimates every year, trans fat intake leads to the deaths from cardiovascular disease of more than 500,000 people around the world.
Industrially produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and have for decades been present in snack foods, baked foods and fried foods. Manufacturers have used them to give their products a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives, which are generally more expensive, can be used that would not affect taste or cost of food.
Endevelt said trans fats may still be found here in pastries and other baked goods in small bakeries or in popcorn. “But in the last three or four years, most big food companies have stopped using trans fats,” she said.
WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said 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.”
The guidelines, he said, will ensure the prompt, complete and sustained elimination of industrially produced trans fats from the food supply and will include recommended legislation; monitoring of trans fats content in the food supply and changes in their consumption by the population; information campaigns to inform the public and policymakers about the negative health impact of trans fats.
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, Ghebreyesus said.
Several high-income countries, such as Denmark, and cities, including New York, have virtually eliminated trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in food.
WHO global ambassador for noncommunicable diseases Michael R. Bloomberg, a former three-term mayor of New York City who acted strongly against trans fats, said what he did “helped reduce the number of heart attacks without changing the taste or cost of food,” just like his strong action against tobacco “allowed us to make more progress globally over the last decade than almost anyone thought possible.”