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Denmark's trans fat law

Executive Order No. 160 of 11 March 2003 on the Content of Trans Fatty Acids in Oils and Fats etc, English Translation

This is the full text of Denmark's law which bans the use of oils and fats containing more than tiny amounts of harmful trans fats in Danish food. It is an exemplary piece of legislation for the protection of public health and the sooner it is implemented EU-wide the better.

It also puts to shame the prevarications, equivocations and obfuscations that typify the approach of other EU countries' regulatory bodies, such as Britain's Food Standards Agency, which seems to do everything it can to avoid doing anything. The Danish food industry has adapted to the law, and so can the British food industry.

The example of Denmark also demonstrates that there is nothing in EU law to stop other EU countries including the UK from doing exactly the same thing!

The following provisions are laid down pursuant to section 13, section 55(2) and section 78(3) of Act No. 471 of 1 July 1998 on Foods etc. (the Danish Food Act):

Part 1 - Scope

    1. This Executive Order shall apply to oils and fats, including emulsions with fat as the continuous phase, which, either alone or as part of processed foods, are intended for human consumption or must be assumed to be intended for human consumption.
    2. This Executive Order shall not cover any naturally occurring content of trans fatty acids in animal fats or products governed by other legislation.
    3. This Executive Order shall solely cover sale to consumers.
  1. It shall be prohibited to sell the oils and fats covered by this Executive Order if such oils and fats have a higher content of the trans fatty acids defined in the Annex than indicated in article 3.
    1. From 1 June 2003, the content of trans fatty acids in the oils and fats covered by this Executive Order shall not exceed 2 grams per 100 grams of oil or fat, but see subarticle (2).
    2. From 1 June 2003 to 31 December 2003, the content of trans fatty acids in the oils and fats covered by this Executive Order which are part of processed foods in which food ingredients other than oils and fats are also contained, and which are manufactured in the food industry, the retail trade, catering businesses, restaurants, institutions, bakeries etc. may, however, be up to 5 grams of trans fatty acids per 100 grams of oil or fat.
  2. In products claimed to be "free of trans fatty acids", the content of trans fatty acids shall be less than 1 gram per 100 grams of the individual oil or the individual fat in the finished product.

Part 2 - Penalty provisions etc.

    1. Any person violating the provisions in article 2 and article 4 of this Executive Order shall be liable to a fine.
    2. The penalty may increase to imprisonment for up to two years if the violation was intentional or grossly negligent, or if by the violation
      1. damage to health has been caused, or danger of such damage has been caused; or
      2. a financial gain, including by means of savings, has been achieved or has been intended to be achieved for the person concerned or others.
    3. Companies etc. (legal persons) may incur criminal liability according to the rules in Part 5 of the Danish Penal Code.
    1. This Executive Order shall enter into force on 31 March 2003.
    2. Products manufactured before the entry into force of this Executive Order and products manufactured within the period indicated in article 3(2) may be sold until expiry of the best before date.

Annex 1 - Definition of trans fatty acids

In this Executive Order, trans fatty acids shall be defined as the sum of all isomeric fatty acids with 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22 carbon atoms and one or more trans double bonds, i.e. C14:1, C16:1, C18:1, C18:2, C18:3, C20:1, C20:2, C22:1, C22:2 trans isomeric fatty acids, but only polyunsaturated fatty acids with methylene-interrupted double bonds.

Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, 11 March 2003
Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries
Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, file no. 2002-20-23-00079
Schultz Grafisk


My further enquiry on definition of TFAs

I was not quite sure what was meant by the definition of "trans fatty acid" in the Order so I asked for some further explanation. This yielded the helpful response:

In the definition of trans fatty acids in the Danish regulation the mono-unsaturated acids are mentioned directly on the list, i.e. C14:1, C16:1, C18:1, C20:1 and C22:1, which means that they are included in the definition of trans fatty acids. The sentence with methylene interrupted double bonds directs itself exclusively towards trans fatty acids with more than one double bond. Chemically speaking it means that the carbon-atoms with a double bond attached are interrupted by a - CH2 - group, that is at methylene group. In contrast there is no such interruption in conjugated fatty acids like CLA, conjugated linoleic acid, where the carbon atoms with a double bond attached are neighbours. I hope that this clarifies the situation.

Best regards,
Head of Section Torben Leth
Department of Chemistry, Danish Institute for Food and Veterinary Research.

In simple terms, this means that the beneficial trans fatty acids, such as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), are excluded from the limitations specified.


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