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Limits of industrially-produced trans fats in foods

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by Anastazja Niedzielska-Pitera

1 April 2021

 

The limits under EU Regulation 2019/649 will start to apply on 2 April 2021. According to the new regulation, food will be allowed to contain artificially processed trans fats at the level of 2%. This means that food offered to final consumers in shops and meals in restaurants will be allowed to contain a maximum of 2g of trans fatty acids per 100g of food.


Which products are affected?


The new rules do not apply to all products containing trans fats. Naturally occurring trans fats (hard animal fats), found primarily in meat and dairy products, are not limited. The EU regulation applies to artificially hydrogenated fats or vegetable oils. They are among the ingredients of many popular food products, such as deep-fried and repeatedly fried foods (chips, doughnuts and some ready-to-serve products), some margarines, instant products (soups, powdered sauces, some stock cubes) and fast foods. Also, highly processed sweets and salty snacks contain high amounts of industrially-produced trans fats.

 

Why have the new rules been introduced


Artificially hydrogenated vegetable oils preserve the taste of a product for longer and also extend its shelf life. However, industrially-produced trans fats contained in food are hazardous to health. They significantly increase levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in the blood and promote cardiovascular diseases. Trans fats increase the risk of certain types of cancer. They may also affect type 2 diabetes and obesity.


The EU regulation became law in 2019 but products exceeding the set limit could be marketed until 1 April 2021. Manufacturers therefore had 2 years to change the composition of certain foods or withdraw them from the market. Non-compliant food may be considered contaminated, which will result in its immediate withdrawal from the market. There are also financial penalties for non-compliance with the new limits.


Food labelling


The new regulation does not change the rules on food labelling. As before, manufacturers will be obliged to indicate trans fats in the list of ingredients on the label (usually as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil). However, they are not required to inform consumers about the weight or percentage of trans fats in a product. The trans fatty acid content of foods can be checked in the publicly available database of the National Institute of Public Health  National Institute of Hygiene at: https://izomery.pzh.gov.pl/.


It is worth noting that the costs of food manufacturing using new, healthier recipes should not increase. Consumers will therefore not be exposed to an increase in food prices.

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Anastazja Niedzielska-Pitera

Attorney at law (Poland)

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