MEPs have voted to impose an EU-wide limit on the amount of industrial trans-fats in food.
More than 90 per cent of European Parliament members voted in favour of the move – which would see restrictions come into force within the next two years.
TFAs (trans-fatty acids) are unsaturated fats found in foods from ruminants, some food products of vegetable origin and industrially produced, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Eating them can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
High TFA intake increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, which accounts for around 660,000 deaths a year in the EU.
The vote comes after the UK Government failed to include a ban in its childhood obesity strategy published earlier this year, and doctors leaders are calling for politicians here to take similar action.
The BMA worked with MEPs and other EU stakeholders to lobby for this latest move.
BMA board of science chair Parveen Kumar said: ‘This is a significant move, especially in light of the Government’s decision to exclude a ban on trans-fat from its childhood obesity strategy. A diet high in trans-fats can lead to high cholesterol levels in the blood, which can cause health conditions such as heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
‘The overwhelming vote is an indication of how important tackling this problem is to public health. The UK Government must now take action.’
MEPs say there is evidence that Denmark’s introduction of legal limits for industrial TFAs, of 2 per cent on trans-fats in oils and fats in 2003, was successful, significantly reducing deaths caused by cardiovascular disease.
In June 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration published a decision that partially hydrogenated oils – the primary dietary source of industrial trans-fats in processed foods – were no longer ‘generally recognized as safe’ for use in human food and are to be prohibited by June 2018.
TFAs are often used in cheaper foods, which means people on lower incomes are most exposed to food with a higher TFA content – potentially deepening health inequalities.
The EU Parliament resolution was passed by 586 votes to 19, with 38 abstentions.
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