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perspective

The case for banning trans fats


Thailand’s decision counters a loophole in US legislation that gives American food producers time to offload stocks

The Public Health Ministry’s latest decision to ban starting in January the import of trans fats produced with partially hydrogenated oils and commonly used as ingredients in food products will elevate food safety standards to a new level.
Scientific evidence has shown that the so-called trans fats contribute to heart, coronary and other diseases, prompting the United States Food and Drug Administration to bar companies there from using trans fats in food products beginning this past June 18. However, US authorities are allowing food products manufactured before that date to be sold in markets until January 1, 2020, making it possible for US firms to export these products to other countries for another year and a half.
The Thai Health Ministry issued its order on June 13 and it was published in the Royal Gazette in July, effectively making the ban plan official. As a result, the order set to be effective 180 days afterwards will ban on all imports of these items in January. It is also likely there will be promotional campaigns and heavy discounts on these items in the Thai market as US manufacturers clear their inventory in the wake of the US FDA ban on the use of trans fats in food production.
Thailand’s response clearly will help protect  consumers here who could be negatively affected by the influx of imported food products that have trans fats as an ingredient. In fact, Thailand – a major producer of natural edible oils such as palm and coconut oils – is not significantly affected by the outlawing of trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), since the country has an abundant domestic supply of natural edible oils.
These oils can be used to produce varieties of food ingredients that are healthy and need not use other edible oils containing unsaturated fat.
The decision to bar trans fats and food products containing them from entering the country will help create greater awareness among consumers and in the food 
industry, which needs to be more responsive to consumer-health issues, especially with regard to the nutritional information presented on food product labels.
PHOs were created by scientists more than five decades ago and touted as a healthier alternative to animal fats, a claim that turned out to be invalid. However, certain qualities of PHOs were favourable for various applications in the food industry, especially for fried and baked items and artificial creams and butter, but the negative consequences for health have lately become obvious, resulting in the US FDA decision to ban their use in the food industry.
The World Health Organisation has also campaigned for member countries to reduce the use of PHOs in food products due to scientific evidence, when consumed in large amounts, they can lead to an increase of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. This is a significant cause of heart, coronary and other ailments throughout the developed and developing world, whose urban populations have become increasingly dependent on processed food due to lifestyle demands.

Published : July 26, 2018

By : The Nation