tfX::the campaign against trans fats in food
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Caroline Walker Trust (CWT)

CWT is a small but effective charity dedicated to the "improvement of public health through good food". It was established in 1988 to continue the work of the distinguished nutritionist, writer and campaigner Caroline Walker.

The main importance of CWT today is through the nutritional standards it has produced, applicable to, for example, school meals and care homes for the elderly. See, for example, its nutritional standards for schools (1992), which have a quasi-official status.

While supporting the motivation of the CWT's work and its nutritional advice, we are concerned at the total absence of mention of trans fats and hydrogenated oils in its 1992 nutritional guidelines for school meals. Given that trans fats are in effect "anti-nutrients" and represent one of the most serious public health hazards of the modern age, to omit them from nutritional standards is a serious omission.

However the state of knowledge and awareness of the dangers of trans fats was far less in 1992 than it is now. We are therefore trying to have guidance on trans fats included in the revised guidance on school meals that CWT will be publishing in June 2005. To this end we have contacted the chair of the relevant Expert Group and made our recommendations. We have now been assured that our submission will be considered by the Group.

The measures tfX has suggested are:

  1. That limits on trans fat content should not be put on school meals as a whole, but on any primary ingredient to be used in school meals.
  2. That since the overwhelming majority of articificial trans fat in the diet arises from hydrogenation, that guidance should state that, in general, hydrogenated oils and fats should not be used in school meals.
  3. That it may be assumed for an initial period that non-hydrogenated oils and fats are 'trans fat safe' in the absence of fatty acid analysis. Certain fats could be considered 'trans fat safe' permanently, such as virgin olive oil and butter. Others such as canola / rapeseed oils have been known to develop significant levels of trans fat during processing and so should, ultimately, be subject to testing.
  4. That the guidance underlying the above should be based on the Danish domestic food legislation which forbids any more than 2% trans fat in any primary food ingredient. We would also suggest adopting the Danish definition of trans fat, as this excudes harmful or beneficial trans fats such as Conjugated Linoleic Acid. The Danish legislation may be seen on the tfX website here.
  5. That if a manufacturer wishes to sell a hydrogenated oil or fat as an ingredient for school meals (or after the initial period, any oil or fat other than those listed as 'trans fat safe'), that the onus should be on them to provide a fatty acid analysis demonstrating compliance with (4) above.
  6. In effect, this approach would exclude most hydrogenated fats from school meals. This would be a good thing anyway, quite apart from the exclusion of trans fats, since:
    1. hydrogenated fats either contain trans fats, or are 100% saturated, and saturated fats are already in surplus in the typical diet.
    2. a number of people have allergies to hydrogenated oils - whether this is because of trans fats, or residues of the metal catalyst used during hydrogenation, is not known. Whichever, it is another reason to avoid them.
    3. the hydrogenation process acts most vigorously on omega-3 fatty acids such as linolenic acid - precisely the kind of essential fatty acid that is most lacking in the average diet. We should be seeking to preserve omega-3s, not hydrogenate them!
  7. An 'initial period' of say 2 years would seem to be plenty to allow the food industry to 'gear up' in terms of fatty acid analysis. This analysis would also provide important information about the wider nutritional profile of fats and oils used in school meals, allowing providers of school meals to seek, for example, an appropriate balance of mono-unsaturated / poly-unsaturated / saturated fatty acids, and of omega-3 / omega-6 essential fatty acids.

Further information will be posted here as matters develop.


Post: The Caroline Walker Trust, PO Box 61, St Austell, PL26 6YL.
Telephone: 01726 844107
Fax: 01726 844453


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