17 Sep 2011

Why are trans fats still legal in the UK?

No trans fats in these - see recipe here
The trans fats in junk food are responsible for the deaths of around 7,000 people a year in the UK – and teenagers are most at risk. Elsewhere, these toxic substances are banned. So why are they still legal in this country? That was the headline in Clare Dwyer Hogg's article this week in The Independent "Dying for a burger? Why are trans fats still legal in the UK?"

Read the article - it is an issue I've followed for many years and am disgusted that we have not taken action in this country. As the article says: "Within many shop-bought pastries, cakes, doughnuts, crisps, processed meats, soups, frozen food, biscuits, chocolate bars, breakfast cereals and takeaway food, exists an ingredient that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared toxic in 2009. It's hydrogenated vegetable oil, otherwise known as trans fat, and it doesn't even have to appear clearly on ingredients labels. Have a look, and you might find it called 'shortening', or 'hydrogenated fats', maybe 'hydrogenated vegetable oils' (HVOs), perhaps 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oils' (PHVOs), or... not mentioned at all."

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, and the Co-operative are now completely free of trans fats in their own brands, and have been for a while. So why not a ban? Last month it was announced that about 40 per cent of us will be obese by 2030! NICE report that of the 150,000 cardiovascular disease deaths this year, 40,000 could be preventable, with a combination of eliminating industrial trans fats, and lowering salt and saturated fat intake. That would save the NHS over £1bn. 

A voluntary deal with the food industry is no where near enough. What about all the little takeaways that often use oil containing trans fats. Worse still the new evidence coming to light shows that trans fats react with certain drugs (like those given to ADHD children) and exacerbate the psychotic effect and can increase levels of depression.

By contrast, in Iceland, Denmark and Sweden, among others, it doesn't matter where you choose to get snacks or fast food: a very low limit in the amount of trans fats that are legally allowed in cooking oil means the amount that any one person ingests is trivial.

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