Studies show that industrially produced trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease. Trans fat is known to raise ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower ‘good’ cholesterol levels. Intake of trans fat should be reduced as low as possible. Most trans fat comes from partially hydrogenated oils, which can be found in products such as vegetable oil shortening, “stick” [hard] margarine, commercially prepared baked goods, potato and corn chips. crackers, microwave popcorn and deep-fried foods.
On September 15th, 2017 Health Canada announced its notice to prohibit Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO) in food in Canada. This prohibition will take effect in twelve months time, on September 15, 2018.
Dietitians of Canada (DC) is pleased to see the Health Canada announcement to support action to help Canadians reduce their intake of total and industrially produced trans fat. DC will continue to follow this action and support efforts to improve public awareness and education on food choices that support a healthier dietary pattern and food environment for all Canadians.
Members of DC were part of the Trans Fat Task Force. The final report of this group, TRANSforming the Food Supply was released in 2006. The goal was to reduce industrially produced trans fat in Canadian foods. The group recommended that Canada's food industry:
- Limit trans fat of vegetable oils and soft, spreadable margarines to 2 percent
- Limit the trans fat for all other foods to 5 percent
The food industry was given two years to make changes. Between December 2007 to December 2009, Health Canada released data on the food industry’s response to the trans fat guidelines. The data showed that the trans fat rules were helping the food industry change their products but there is still further progress that needs to be made.
Most Canadians exceed the recommended limits of trans fat intake. In 2012, the Health Minister confirmed that the federal government would continue with a voluntary approach instead of regulation with the food industry.
Dietitians of Canada supported the restriction of trans fats in restaurants in British Columbia in 2009 - BC was the first Canadian province with such an initiative and a recent evaluation demonstrated almost full compliance. In September 2014, we issued a media release outlining DC's support for a new campaign in Quebec: Dietitians of Canada wants to see trans fats banned in Québec restaurants
In October 2016, Health Canada launched the Healthy Eating Strategy, which included proposed actions for Banning Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) from Canada's food supply; Dietitians of Canada responded to the government's proposal in January 2017 (see report below).
In September 2017, Health Canada published its mandatory change for PHOs in foods, applicable to food labelling and production regulations in Canada, as a Notice of Modification: Prohibiting the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Foods (Reference Number: NOM/ADM-C-2017-3. The notice includes:
- definitions for banned PHOs and for fully hydrogenated oils (FHOs), which will be allowed due to their very low content of trans fat;
- a list of exclusions (such as ingredients that contain only naturally occurring trans fat (e.g., non hydrogenated ruminant sources), conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), PHO’s used in raw materials to make other ingredients, as well as other ingredients derived from PHO’s as long as the final product contains no trans fat); and
- notice that Health Canada will, for the time being, continue to require trans fat declarations in the Nutrition Facts table.
Dietitians of Canada continues to support and emphasize the importance of routine trans fat monitoring, even after the implementation of the PHO prohibition, and requests that the mandatory declaration of trans fat in the Nutrition Facts table be reconsidered by Health Canada.
The ban on PHOs is now officially in effect, as of September 17, 2018, with the addition of PHOs to Part 1 of Health Canada’s List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has allowed existing stocks of food containing PHOs (processed before Sept 2018) to be sold until Sept 2020.
Updated September 18, 2018