Trans fats are found in foods that contain hydrogenated oils, usually added to make fried food crisper, and has been linked to several health concerns including increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase in heart disease risk. Denmark banned food with more than 2 percent trans fats two years ago, but thus far has been the only country to impose such a severe restriction.
The new Australian body will be made up of the National Heart Foundation of Australia, the Dietitians Association of Australia, the Australian Food and Grocery Council, and Food Standards Australia New Zealand, and promotes mandatory labeling of foods with trans fats. Currently, foods are only required to have trans fat content listed on the label if it claims to be "low in saturated fat" or have "no cholesterol."
According to Christopher Pyne, parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Health and Aging, immediate governmental regulation of trans fats is not required, but he noted consumers were becoming increasingly educated about the need to avoid trans fats.
"The National Collaboration on Trans Fats provides an opportunity to promote current industry and public health initiatives in this area more widely," Pyne said. "It will also raise consumer awareness of trans fats.
"I urge consumers, for the sake of their health, to limit their consumption of trans and saturated fats," he added.
According to representatives from the Labor political party, the plan does not go far enough to protect consumers from trans fat.
"Labeling the trans fat content of packaged foods on supermarket shelves completely ignores the biggest problem: the use of trans fats in cooking fast food," said Labor Member of Parliament Dr. Craig Emerson. "Disadvantaged communities consume large quantities of fried fast food," he said. "No amount of labeling on supermarket shelves will protect them."
Emerson, whose proposed motion on the control of trans fats in parliament two weeks ago was ultimately defeated, said Australia should follow Denmark's example of severe regulation of trans fats, and that inexpensive substitutes for the ingredient were already available.
"If fast food outlets were required to use unsaturated fats that don't contain trans fats there would be virtually no increase in cost but a big public health benefit, especially in disadvantaged communities," he said.
Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of "Poison in the Food: Hydrogenated Oils," agreed.
"While Australia would be much better off following Denmark's example rather than just changing labeling laws, at least the government is making an effort to address the trans fat issue," he said. "The U.S. government has little time for the subject of poisons in the food supply, mostly because they see cheap food ingredients as good for the economy, regardless of their effect on public health."
Adams added that consumers who wish to strike a blow for the removal of trans fats from the food supply should visit www.TransFatFreeNYC.org to support the proposal to remove trans fats from New York City restaurants.