Australia and New Zealand set to curb 'bad fats' use

Australian and New Zealand food authorities are to collaborate on a plan to restrict the use of hydrogenated and saturated fats, after the Tasman neighbours convened at a summit on the issue recently. Australia's health minister, Christopher Pyne, noted that while both countries had met trans fat reduction targets, saturated and other fats remain problematic.

"While we are consuming levels of trans fats well below the World Health Organization recommendation, we are eating above the WHO recommended levels of saturated fats," Pyne told the summit. "I have seen reports in the media where a food outlet states it is telling consumers they had gone 'trans fat free' when, in fact, it is using palm oil, which is high in saturated fat. I've also seen claims that butter is 'virtually trans fat free' when it, too, is high in saturated fats."

The WHO recommends one per cent of daily calorie intake should be derived from trans fats. On average, Australians consume 0.6 per cent of their daily calories through trans fats; New Zealanders gain 0.7 per cent of their daily energy this way.

Pyne praised Australian and New Zealand food manufacturers for their trans fat removal initiatives but noted it should not blind them to the restriction of all unhealthy fats in their products if diets are to genuinely improve. "While looking at the trans fats issue we have no wish to undo much of this good work, for example, by manufacturers and retailers returning to use saturated fats such as palm oil, tallow or lard," Pyne said. "I look forward to hearing the out comes of this collaboration, especially in what you recommend to further reducing trans fats in our food supply in the context of a balanced diet," he added.

Trans fat bans or restrictions already exist in Denmark, South Africa, Canada and Israel, and the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recommended mandatory trans fat on-product labelling similar to that in place in the US.

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