Trans fat intake down as much as 40% in Australia

Posted by Editorial on 26th October 2009

In a report published on Friday, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has shown that intake of trans fatty acids (TFAs) from manufactured sources has declined in the Australian and New Zealand population by 25-40% since 2007. The report has been welcomed by the Australian Food and Grocery Council and has convinced health ministers that regulation is not required at this point in time.
FSANZ Chief Scientist Dr Paul Brent said this means that total intake of TFAs is now estimated to be 0.5% to 0.6% of total dietary energy, which is well below the WHO goal of 1%.

“This is an excellent outcome after 2 years cooperation between governments, health professionals and the food industry to reformulate foods to include healthier fats,” he explained. “It is an important health outcome for Australians and New Zealanders. Like saturated fats, TFA intake is linked with increased risk of coronary heart disease.”

“I’m also pleased to see that the reduction in TFA intake hasn’t resulted in an increase in saturated fat intake. Studies suggest consumers may inadvertently consume greater amounts of saturated fats when focussing on labelled amounts of TFAs. This cooperative process seems to have had a better outcome than overseas regulation such as mandatory labelling or setting upper limits (often portrayed as TFA ‘bans’).”

“However, while 90% of Australians and 85% of New Zealanders are consuming TFA below the WHO population goal of 1% of energy intake, there are a small proportion of people who exceed this,” Dr Brent cautioned. “Our survey shows that the Australians with TFA intake over 1% of energy are getting their high levels of TFAs from pastry products, sausages, luncheon meats and creamy style pasta dishes.”

“We must remember that most of these foods are likely to be high in TFAs from natural sources and are not able to be reduced by changes to industry practices. Also, most of these foods are not everyday foods recommended in a balanced diet.”

Although TFA consumption has reduced, intakes of saturated fats and trans fats combined are still around 15% of total energy – which is far above the recommendation of 8-10%.

The FSANZ Report on the 2009 Review of Trans Fatty Acids incorporated data from an analytical survey of TFAs in a range of processed and takeaway foods. The survey was co-ordinated by the New South Wales Food Authority, with assistance from the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and the Health Departments in WA and SA.

The full report can be found here.