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Trans fats

WHO may recommend global ban on partially hydrogenated oils in foods

Thursday, September 21, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: trans fats, the WHO, hydrogenated oils


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(NewsTarget) In the event that warning labels about the health dangers of hydrogenated oils do not cause significant reductions in its usage, the World Health Organization has proposed that world governments should gradually terminate the availability of the harmful ingredient in foods.

The recommendations are part of WHO's proposed action plan for the Codex Alimentarius Commission -- a joint-funded venture with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization that is a rulemaking body responsible for food standards -- and also include proposals such as: tougher restrictions on the use of labels that say foods are "trans-fat free" while still containing unhealthy saturated fat; consistent regulations governing the use of health claims in food advertising and labeling; and rules that require food labels to reveal percentages of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and sugars when connected to marketing claims.

"If implemented, the action plan would be an important step in combating the global epidemic of diet-related disease and obesity," said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and President of the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations. "We hope the Bush Administration will support this effort, in contrast to its attempts to water down previous global diet and health initiatives."

The WHO proposals parallel several petitions the CSPI has brought before the FDA, including one requesting the administration repeal its approval of hydrogenated oils, an ingredient that causes trans fats to form in the body, which can then cause heart attacks. The CSPI has also petitioned the FDA to require food companies to disclose quantitative amounts of key ingredients, which would mean that Smucker's, for example, would have to reveal that their strawberry "Simply 100% Fruit," is actually only 30 percent strawberries.

Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of "Grocery Warning," supported the WHO proposal, and noted it wasn't the first time the organization had suggested such actions.

"This is a move the WHO actually recommended in the late 1970's, yet for decades, the FDA and food companies have continued to knowingly harm consumers by allowing the use of the health-harming hydrogenated oils in thousands of food products," he said. "It is time to ban this dietary toxin from the U.S. food supply."

Codex is currently giving governments and representatives of industry and consumer organizations a chance to comment on the proposal before drafting specific rules for implementing the final action plan, which could take several years.

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