Food and beverage giants pledge to cut trans fats to below 1g per 100g by 2018

Fried foods can contain high levels of trans fats. Photo: iStock - wildpixel

Global food and drinks businesses including General Mills, Kellogg, Mars, Nestlé and Unilever have pledged to reduce trans fatty acids to “nutritionally insignificant levels” by the end of 2018.

Members of the International Food & Beverage Alliance – which aims to help consumers achieve balanced diets and healthy lifestyles – made an initial pledge to the World Health Organization in 2008 to phase out industrially produced trans fatty acids (TFAs) in their products.

IFBA members have this week announced the agreement of a common goal to reduce TFAs in products to less than one gram of trans fat per 100g of product worldwide by the end of 2018 at the latest.

There are two exceptions to this:

  • Grupo Bimbo said it will need a longer phase-out period to ensure its whole portfolio meets the requirement and has set a target of no later than 31 December 2020. It added it had reduced industrially produced trans fats to less than 0.5g per serving in 98% of its global portfolio by 2015.
  • McDonald’s has not agreed to the commitment but said it is assessing its global franchise network and will confirm its position as soon as possible.

The IFBA said the limit is achievable through the replacement of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) with non-PHO solutions, and have been voluntarily reformulating products to remove partially hydrogenated oils and increase use of mono- or poly-unsaturated fatty acids. 

WHO action plan

The World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases 2013 -2020 calls on Member States to implement policies to replace industrially produced TFAs with unsaturated fats. IFBA said its new commitment reflects its support for this.

There is broad scientific consensus that high consumption of trans fats raises levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, increases risk of coronary heart disease and may be associated with increased risk of other cardiovascular diseases.

IFBA members

The IFBA comprises eleven global food and non-alcoholic beverage companies:

  • The Coca-Cola Company
  • Ferrero
  • General Mills
  • Grupo Bimbo
  • Kellogg
  • Mars
  • McDonald’s
  • Mondelēz  International
  • Nestlé
  • PepsiCo
  • Unilever

Reducing the intake of industrial trans fats to nutritionally insignificant levels has been identified as a priority in public health nutrition,” said IFBA secretary general Rocco Renaldi. “The commitment by IFBA member companies to achieve this globally over the next two and one-half years supports this objective.”

Working with governments

The IFBA added that its member companies are committed to working with governments, health authorities, civil society and food and beverage industry associations to share best practice and help other companies - particularly small and medium enterprises - substitute PHOs.

We stand ready to support the broader industry to achieve the same and to work to define effective measures to ensure a level playing field in this area,” added Renaldi.

Businesses have been slashing TFA content in foods sold in the US since nutritional labelling became mandatory in 2006. Last year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that PHOs were no longer 'generally recognized as safe' for use in human food and set a deadline of 18 June 2018 by which manufacturers need to have removed PHOs from their products.

There is currently no EU legislation regulating the content of trans fats in food. Neither are there specific labelling requirements, although consumers can see from the list of ingredients whether the product contains partially hydrogenated oils. The European Commission published a report last December that supported the idea of a trans fat limit but it has yet to follow up with any legislation.

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