The World Health Organization announced that it wants all artificial trans fats eliminated from the world’s food supply and has a strategy on how to accomplish that by 2023.
The WHO, on Monday launched its new REPLACE initiative that provides guidance to countries on the best ways to remove artificial trans fats from foods, hoping to lead to worldwide eradication.
The initiative is aimed at leading countries to the establishing of legislation that eliminates trans fats, said the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development’s director Dr. Francesco Branca in a statement released in Geneva.
Artificial trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, develop when vegetable oil becomes hard in a process known as hydrogenation.
The hydrogenated fats often times are used in baked goods or processed foods because they take a longer time to spoil than do other fats, but they also have harmful effects to human health, such as increased levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and higher rates of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
In certain countries, the risk is quite high. Across much of South Asia they have very high heart disease risk and high trans fats intake, said Dr. Branca.
In certain countries in Latin America there are high risks, but some are taking action already. In Mexico, a country that has a very high intake of trans fats, initiatives are being established to lower that.
South Africa has had problems, said the doctor, but has new legislation that will help and in many countries across the Middle East the same thing its taking place.
The new REPLACE program is WHO’s first time calling for the elimination of something besides a non-communicable disease.
One of WHO’s partners, Resolve to Save Lives, is a part of Vital Strategies a non-profit organization that is planning to provide countries with assistance to support the new REPLACE program in eliminating the use of trans fats.
Health experts say that trans fats can be easily replaced and it is not necessary to change the cost, availability or taste of the food.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration determined that the main dietary source for artificial hydrogenated trans fats – partially hydrogenated oils – are not considered as safe.
During 2015, the FDA gave food businesses three years to eliminate artificial trans fats that contain the hydrogenated oils from foods that are processed.