Fattiest fats and oils face further scrutiny

Israel will become the third nation after Denmark and Canada to pass legislation limiting trans fats in foods. Israel?s stance follows recently published US Department of Agriculture dietary recommendations advocating higher consumption of fish oils and fewer ?bad fats.? Trans fats labelling will also be mandatory in the US beginning Jan 1, 2006.

?Trans fats have been on the agenda for the past three years, but it is only now regulations are coming into force,? said Elzaphan Hotam, business development manager at Israel-based ingredients supplier Enzymotech. ?So the industry had been shifting toward low to zero trans fats even before these regulations were announced.?

The World Health Organization?s international food policy and standards body, Codex, was holding a London convention on the topic as FF&N went to press. Its 100-strong Committee on Fats and Oils was set to discuss draft standards for fats and blended spreads, proposed amendments to the standard for named vegetable oils (eg, rice bran, sesame seed, palm oil), and the storage and transport of edible fats and oils in bulk. Fats and oils suppliers were present at the meeting and their input was invited.

All this activity is creating market opportunities for suppliers of healthier fats and oils as food manufacturers reformulate to cope with the new demands. Nestle, Kraft, Unilever and McDonald?s are just a few major players who have committed to improving the nutritional profiles of their foods.

McDonald?s recently lost a court case where it was found it had reneged on a commitment to remove trans fats from all of its products by February 2003. The fast food chain paid $7 million to a heart-health charity and vowed to spend a further $1.5 million informing the public of its trans fats plans — small fry financially, but symbolically significant.

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