Not enough transparency on invisible trans fats

Australia should label dangerous trans fats as the USA does.

CHOICE tests have shown manufacturers are still using hazardous levels of unnecessary trans fats in processed foods such as pies, cakes and doughnuts - without the need for any disclosure on labels.

Of the 32 foods CHOICE analysed 12 contained more than 4% trans fats as a percentage of the total fat – twice the limit that is permitted for food products sold in Denmark and Switzerland.

The list of trans-fat offenders includes Four’n Twenty Traditional Meat Pies, Pampas Short Crust Pastry and MacDonald’s MacCafe Iced Donuts. The industrially produced trans fats are mostly found in deep-fried fast food and processed foods made with margarine or shortening.

Trans fats can increase the risk of heart disease and sudden death from heart-related causes. They are worse than saturated fats for health and there’s evidence they can also increase the risk of developing diabetes.

But unlike consumers in the US and Canada, where trans fats must be listed on food labels, Australians have no way of avoiding doughnuts, pastries, pies and snacks that contain high levels.

Since CHOICE last tested food products for trans fats in 2005 there have been some improvements made. But at least one snack food contains even higher amounts.

Burns & Ricker Bagel Crisps now contain a greater percentage of trans fats but their importer told CHOICE they were working with the US supplier to reduce the amount.

In the US the use of trans fats in foods has decreased 50% since labelling was introduced in 2006. In New York restaurants and fast food outlets aren’t allowed to serve dishes with more than 0.5% of trans fats per serving.

Australia’s regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) wants to see industrially produced trans fats removed from the food supply but is not in favour of labelling trans fats. CHOICE says Australian consumers deserve better.

“We believe the regulator is being too complacent as to the well-established health risks from consuming too many trans fats. Labelling has had a substantial impact on reducing their use in the US and Canada and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t in Australia,” said CHOICE spokesman Christopher Zinn.

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