The European Commission wants to set a legal limit for industrial trans fats in food products, according to a new report by the executive, published on Thursday (3 December).
The report says that although the average intake of trans fats, also known as trans fatty acids, has been reported below nationally and internationally recommended levels in the EU, this is not true for all groups in society.
Trans fats in industrially-produced fats can be technically reduced, and alternative fats and oils for food production exist. Meanwhile, the proportion of natural trans fats in animal fats is limited, relatively stable and reducing them is not possible.
The Commission believes that the “content would be the most effective measure in terms of public health, consumer protection and compatibility with the single market.”
While some member states already have already set legal limits, an absence of a decision at EU level has created a fragmentation and disruption of the single market.
“Should no action be taken at EU level, difficulties might also arise for EU producers who are interested in access to the US market,” the executive says in the report.
The executive’s report was meant to have been published a year ago, on 13 December 2014.
In April, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) sent a complain over the delay to Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis. In October, major food companies and health NGOs joined BEUC in calling for action by the European Commission over the matter.
The same month, Andriukaitis confirmed that the report was ‘on track’ and ready to be published by the end of this year, with the Commission recommending that trans fats should be regulated at EU level.
The executive will shortly launch a public consultation and carry out an impact assessment to collect more information and build on the analysis in the report.
In order to combat cardiovascular disease, the Danish government banned trans fatty acids in 2003. The ban resulted in a lawsuit by the Commission over the potential discrimination of foreign fast food chains. The lawsuit was eventually dropped.
Susanne Løgstrup, European Heart Network (EHN) director, said:
“We are delighted that the trans fatty acids report has come out. We hope that the follow up will be speedy; we need to make up for lost time and help people reduce their risks of heart disease."