The ban on trans fats by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will apply only to industrial trans fats when it takes effect starting on January 9.
FDA Food Bureau chief Supattra Boonserm on Friday dismissed suggestions that the ban would cover all types of trans fats.
“It does not cover natural trans fats,” she said, explaining that industrial trans fats were found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).
“The process involves adding hydrogen to vegetable oils to turn them into solid fats,” Supattra said.
Studies suggest PHOs pose a greater risk of inducing cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. The World Health Organisation wants them banned throughout the food industry by 2023.
Many food products contain PHOs, such as crackers, cookies and other baked goods, and Supattra called them “the largest source of trans fats in the average diet”.
Her comments came after she attended a meeting on Friday afternoon with food manufacturers, restaurateurs, importers and large-scale food distributors, at which guidelines for the ban were discussed.
The FDA wants manufacturers to adopt a certification procedure issued by laboratories and approved by the Medical Sciences Department or another agency that has met ISO/IEC17025 standards, to demonstrate their products are free of industrial trans fats.
The FDA has provided instructions on how the products’ nutritional details are to be displayed on the packaging.
“Do not put ‘trans fats-free’ on your products because it could mislead consumers,” Supattra said. “Trans fats are naturally found in food, so food items can only have more or less trans fats.”
The ban on the production, import and sale of PHOs in the food industry was published in the Royal Gazette on July 13 and will take effect 180 days after that date, meaning early next year.
The Food Bureau has said many food companies already stopped using industrial trans fats before the publication.
Food-industry expert Wassaphon Saengseethong said last week the ban would affect only small and medium-sized food and beverage businesses.
“Although the impacts will be quite serious, they will not last forever,” he said. “Entrepreneurs will be able to adjust.”