After observing results in New York City and Denmark, where mandatory restrictions on trans fats were imposed, the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) Board will recommend to UK Ministers that voluntary measures in the UK should suffice. The FSA Board mentioned that voluntary measures to lower trans fat content in food has resulted low consumer intakes. In other words, they believe that introducing legislation is not needed.

The UK Health Secretary had asked the FSA to review the situation regarding trans fats after Denmark and New York City actually changed the laws forcing the food and catering industry to make adjustments. The review showed that the voluntary action so far in the UK has delivered at least the same benefits as the mandatory legislation abroad. Today, trans fats make up for just 1% of food energy intake in the UK. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN) recommends that trans fats dietary intake should not exceed 2% of total energy consumed.

As trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy foods it is not possible to eliminate them completely from our diets, except perhaps for vegans.

As 13.3% of the UK population’s intake of food energy is made up of saturated fat, this type of fat poses a much more serious problem than trans fats, says the FSA. Recommended limits for saturated fats are that they do not represent more than 11% of food energy intake. Saturated fat intake has an impact on heart disease risk – heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United Kingdom.

In view of all this, the FSA advises that authorities keep an eye on consumer intakes of trans fats, and focus more aggresively on reformulating foods to reduce people’s consumption of saturated fats. Continued efforts should be made to encourage people to consume as little saturated fat as possible.

“The voluntary reduction of trans fats is a great illustration of a regulator and industry working together for the benefit of public health. I’m delighted that industry has responded so positively to this issue and I think this decision provides a springboard for our future work on salt and saturated fat,” Chair of the FSA, Dame Deirdre Hutton, said.

The FSA will make its recommendations to the Health Secretary by 19th December. The final decision on whether new legislation is needed to control trans fats intake is decided by the Department of Health.

Written by – Christian Nordqvist