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Government statements on trans fats

The material on this page is largely based on written Parliamentary Answers published in Hansard. These may be found through the Parliament website at www.parliament.uk.

Michael Meacher (Labour, Oldham West & Royton) - 29 June 2006

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to the answer of 18 April 2006, Official Report, column 124W, on trans fats, which national diet and nutrition surveys were referred to in that answer; which of these surveys yielded data on dietary fatty acid profiles according to socio-economic status; and what conclusions she has drawn from these data regarding dietary fatty acid profiles according to socio-economic status. [78949]

Caroline Flint: My previous reply referred to results from the national diet and nutrition survey (NDNS) of adults aged 19 to 64(1). This survey did not collect detailed information on socio-economic status, but did identify participants living in households in which someone was in receipt of benefits (benefit households).

When intakes are expressed as a percentage of food energy, there were no significant differences in the fat and fatty acid composition of the diets of men and women from benefit and non-benefit households.

Earlier surveys in the NDNS series covering young people aged four to 18(2) and older adults aged 65 and over(3) also found no differences in the fat and fatty acid composition of diets according to socio-economic status.

Notes:

  1. Henderson L, Gregory J, Irving K and Swan G. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years. Volume 2: Energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol intake. TSO (London: 2003).
  2. Gregory J, Lowe S, Bates CJ, Prentice A, Jackson LV, Smithers G, Wenlock R and Farron M. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: young people aged four to 18 years. Volume 1: Report of the diet and nutrition survey (2000). TSO (London: 2000).
  3. Finch S, Doyle W, Lowe C, Bates CJ, Prentice A, Smithers G and Clarke PC. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: people aged 65 years or over. Volume 1: Report of the diet and nutrition survey. TSO (London: 1998).

Francis Maude (Conservative, Horsham) - 22 May 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the health effects of trans fatty acids. [71439]

Caroline Flint: The Government are aware of the health effects of consuming certain fats, including trans fatty acids (TFAs), particularly on coronary health.

An assessment in 2004 by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) agreed with earlier conclusions of the United Kingdom's committee on medical aspects of food policy that TFAs may increase risk of coronary heart disease by raising blood cholesterol levels.

Michael Meacher (Labour, Oldham West & Royton) - 18 April 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether

  1. her Department has and
  2. its agencies have
    1. assessed and
    2. plans to assess the effect that placing a legal maximum limit on the occurrence of transfats in food would have on the reduction of health inequalities. [62185]
Caroline Flint: Data from national diet and nutrition surveys show little evidence of socio-economic differences in fatty acid intakes, consequently no assessment has been made of the effect that placing a legal maximum on the occurrence of trans fatty acids (TFA) in foods would have on health inequalities, and there are currently no plans to make such assessments.

Average intakes of TFA by consumers were 1.1 per cent. of total energy in 2000-01, and well within the maximum level of 2.0 per cent. recommended by the committee on medical aspects of food policy (COMA) in 1994. COMA's recommendation was based on evidence on the adverse effects of TFA on coronary heart disease risk.

Michael Meacher (Labour, Oldham West & Royton) - 28 March 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

  1. whether she has assessed the merits of placing a legal maximum on the level of trans fats in food in England; [60443]
  2. whether her Department
    1. has made and
    2. plans to make an assessment of
      1. the technological feasibility of replacing trans fats in food with less harmful fats and
      2. the likely costs to the food production industry that would result; [60513]
  3. whether her Department
    1. has made and
    2. plans to make an assessment of the
      1. potential effects on levels of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, omega-3 nutritional status, pre-eclampsia and atopic disorders and
      2. general public health effects of the imposition of legal maximums on the level of trans fats in food. [60515]
Caroline Flint: In 1994, the committee on medical aspects of food policy (COMA) reviewed the evidence on the adverse effects of trans unsaturated fatty acids (TFA) on coronary heart disease risk and recommended that average intakes should not exceed 2 per cent. total energy. In 1986-87 average intakes were 2 per cent. total energy and by 2000-01 this had reduced to an average intake of 1.1 per cent. total energy. Intakes of saturated fat, however, at 13.4 per cent. are higher than the COMA recommendation of 11 per cent. The Government's priority therefore is to reduce saturated fat intake, and action to encourage reductions is under way. Opportunities to reduce TFA intakes are being considered in this wider context.

No assessment has been made of the feasibility, costs or health benefits related to placing a legal maximum on the occurrence of TFA in foods, and there are currently no plans to make such assessments. Some manufacturers and retailers have taken steps to eliminate, or reduce, hydrogenated vegetable oils, which contain TFA, in their products. Government have no data on the associated costs of these activities.

Dr Ashok Kumar (Labour, Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland) - 11 July 2005

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

  1. if she will introduce legislation to control trans fats in food products; [7524]
  2. if she will take steps to ensure that food labelling includes details of trans fats. [7525]
Caroline Flint: The Government is concerned about the possible health effects, in particular on coronary health, from consuming certain fats. Based on independent expert advice, the Government considers saturated fat intake reduction of particular public health significance and is working to reduce fat intakes, which will include both saturated and trans fatty acids. Currently average population dietary intakes of trans fats in the United Kingdom are considerably lower than those recommended by the committee on medical aspects of food policy (1994). There are currently no plans to introduce legislation to control the amount of trans fats in foods.

The Government is pressing for the labelling of trans fatty acids in foods at European Union level.

Mr. Robertson: 25 May 2005

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what research she has commissioned on the effects on human health of hydrogenated vegetable oil; and if she will make a statement. [660]

Caroline Flint: The Government are concerned about the possible health effects, in particular on coronary health, from consuming certain fats. The Government as part of delivering its "Choosing Health" White Paper is developing a strategy for tackling fat intakes, which will include opportunities to reduce intakes of both saturated and "trans" fatty acids. There are currently no plans to commission research on the health effects of consuming hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Mr. Graham Brady (Conservative, Altrincham & Sale West) - 20 May 2003

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his department has made of the effects on human health of hydrogenated fats in processed foods. [178]

Ms Blears: The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) considered trans ("hydrogenated") fatty acids in the report Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease (1994).

COMA concluded that trans fatty acids may have undesirable effects on plasma cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality. COMA therefore recommended that "on average trans fatty acids should provide no more than the current average of about 2 per cent of dietary energy and that consideration should be given to ways of decreasing the amount present in the diet."

The forthcoming national diet and nutrition survey of adults will allow an assessment of current intakes of trans fatty acids. In addition, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissions a range of research on fat and its implication for human health, details of which can be found on the FSA website at http://www.food.gov.uk/.

Mr. Graham Brady (Conservative, Altrincham & Sale West) - 20 May 2003

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, whether it is his policy to increase public awareness of the effects of hydrogenated fats on human health. [179]

Ms Blears: The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are engaged with stakeholders in a wide range of activities aimed at promoting a healthy balanced diet, including increasing people's awareness of the overall quantity and balance of different types of fat in the diet. The FSA also produces a consumer leaflet on the place of fats within a healthy diet.

There is NHS Plan commitment to work with industry to address the overall balance of the diet, including fat, sugar and salt, working with industry. The Department and the FSA are currently in discussion with the food industry on levels of salt in foods; action on fats and added sugars will follow through 2003-04.

Wider initiatives, such as the five-a-day programme, reform of the Welfare Food Scheme and various programmes in schools to improve the diets of children are also likely to help reduce the intake of fats, including hydrogenated fats. The forthcoming food and health action plan will pull together all the issues that influence what we eat and will address healthy eating at all stages of the life course. The plan will build on a comprehensive on-going programme of work already underway across Government on healthy eating.

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