Snacks full of trans fat, call for mandatory trans fat labelling in Australia

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 3rd July 2012

A leading Australian nutrition scientist, Professor Andrew Sinclair from Deakin University, has called for mandatory labelling in Australia of trans fat in food products.

His findings indicate that some popular foods, many of which are being imported into Australia, such as buttered popcorn in movie theatres, wafer biscuits, and croissants and other bakery items, contain very high levels of trans fat. Certain popcorn brands reportedly contain between 6 and 8 grams of trans fat – about six times more than the “daily tolerable intake” in one serve alone.

In an interview with Australian Food News this morning, Professor Sinclair said, “My view is that food should be labelled to avoid some consumers taking in large amounts unintentionally.”

What is trans fat?

Industrially produced trans fats are used in products such as margarine, to ensure a “spreadable” consistency. Trans fats also occur naturally in the meat of ruminant animals including sheep, cattle and goat.

As Australian Food News reported, trans fat intake poses a significant cardiovascular disease risk, more so than a high intake of dietary saturated fatty acids, owing to the effects of TFA in increasing LDL (the “bad cholesterol”) levels and reducing HDL (the “good cholesterol”).

Trans fat consumption in Australia

Food Safety Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) studies previously have found that Australian consumption on average of trans fat was comparable or lower than the international standard. However, these averages do not spell out the true story.

Professor Sinclair acknowledged that while, on average, the Australian food supply has a relatively low level of trans fat, the lack of mandatory labelling makes it difficult for consumers to monitor their intake.

“Individuals can unintentionally consume high levels of trans fat,” he said.

Results of Professor Sinclair’s research into trans fat consumption in Australia were published last month in an editorial for the Medical Journal of Australia.

Trans fat labelling regulations overseas

In 2006, trans fat labelling regulations have been in force in many countries since 2003, including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

New York City has gone even further. In 2006, Mayor Bloomberg banned trans fat in restaurants and prepared foods.

Blewett Report outcome

The Federal government review of food labelling in 2011, led by Dr Neal Blewett, made a recommendation that mandatory declaration of all trans fat above an agreed threshold be introduced in the Nutrition Information Panel by January 2013.