Health Dept to regulate trans-fats in foods

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pretoria - The Department of Health is to develop legislation aimed at reducing certain trans-fats in some processed and prepared foods currently for sale in South Africa.

It is hoped that the development and implementation of the legislation will contribute towards the reduction of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity.

These diseases are associated with the presence of trans-fatty acids in one's diet.

The legislation will affect all manufactured and/or pre-packaged foodstuffs, as well as foods prepared by restaurants and fast food outlets, currently sold in South Africa generally containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (IP-TFAs) as an ingredient, or where such oil is used for deep frying purposes.

Natural occurring trans-fatty acids in animal fats, such as in dairy products and meat, are excluded from the proposed new legislation as they are believed to have certain health benefits.

The department is expected to consult stakeholders in the process of developing this legislation,

It will be conducting a workshop on 22 October to provide an opportunity for inputs on the way forward. The venue for the workshop has not been confirmed.

This meeting will include representatives of the industry, bodies dealing with diseases of lifestyle such as the Cancer Association of South Africa, as well as academic and research institutions involved in the promotion of healthy nutrition.

"It is the intention of the department to consult and provide an opportunity for those members of the food industry who will be affected to give inputs or comments on the proposed new legislation," the department explained in a statement on Thursday.

It said manufacturers could use either alternative technologies for processing vegetable oil without the harmful effects on health, or choose to use more appropriate types of fats and oils in their products.

Countries such as Denmark, Canada and the United States have introduced similar legislation since 2003.

According to the department, it was accomplished without noticeable effects on the availability, price or quality of foods previously containing high amounts of industrially processed trans fatty acids.