Monday, August 21, 2006

Crackdown on danger food

PACKAGED food, margarines and even Chiko Rolls may soon carry warnings about their trans fat content, which recent research has revealed can increase the chance of developing coronary heart disease by more than 20 per cent.

But Rosemary Stanton and other nutritionists say food regulators should go further and adopt the Danish standard, banning all products with more than 2 per cent trans fat. "Manufacturers don't have to have this stuff. They can process their fats by other methods, it's just a bit more expensive," Ms Stanton said.

Rosemary Stanton

Clinical trials conducted by Oxford University recently published in the British Medical Journal found that a 2 per cent increase in the consumption of trans fatty acids can lead to a 23 per cent increase in coronary heart disease. Trans fats are added to most fast foods and to a range of baked supermarket goods, confectionary and sandwich spreads, to improve taste, texture and shelf life.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand said it was examining the level of trans fat in the Australian diet and may change food labelling laws so consumers would know how much of the fat was used in particular products. "We have formally started the review process and been working on it since the beginning of this year," said FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann, adding that the process should be complete by the beginning of next year.

FSANZ last examined the use of trans fats in 2000. Ms Buchtmann said at that time there was not evidence to show that sufficient quantities of trans fats were consumed in Australia to become a health threat.

However, Ms Stanton said consumers had been lulled into a false sense of security. She said while two major margarine manufacturers had stopped using trans fat, most house brand and cheaper brands still had high trans fat content.

"We are also totally ignoring it in things like chicken nuggets, fast foods and pastries and things like Nutella," she said.

Professor Paul Nestel, senior principal research fellow in cardiovascular nutrition at the Baker Heart Research Institute, who started studying trans fats more than a decade ago, said most locally produced food stuffs have much lower levels than that produced in the United States or Europe.

Currently manufacturers must only reveal saturated fat content and total fat content that includes trans fat. Still, he expects that food labelling laws will be changed following the review.

Footnote: Rosemary Stanton runs a consulting business, whos clients include State and Commonwealth government departments, sports associations and teams, primary industry groups, selected sections of the food industry and a major retailer. Her major role within these groups is to further the aims of educating the public about food and nutrition. I see a conflict of interest here. Does any one else? If she is being paid by "selected sections of the food industry" and a "major retailer", whos interests do you think she has in mind? Ours, or the people that pay her?


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