Sweden may follow countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Austria, and implement legislation to limit the use of trans fats in foods, according to local media.
The motion on trans fat regulation was put forward by opposition groups in the Swedish parliament in 2011 with the Swedish National Food Agency - the Livsmedelsverket - now said to be compiling a proposal on the matter, according to Sveriges Radio (SR).
A comment from the Swedish agency on the matter was not forthcoming ahead of publication.
Artificial trans-fats are made by partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils, a process that turns them into semi-solids, giving them a higher melting point and longer shelf-life, thereby making them better suited for use in the food industry.
Evidence has mounted over the past decade linking consumption of the fats to greater risk of heart disease, as they lower levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol) and raise levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or ‘bad’ cholesterol).
In Denmark, where it has been illegal for foods to contain more than 2% trans fats since 2004, deaths from heart disease have dropped by 20%.
Though trans fats are not, yet, subject to regulation in most countries, many industry players have begun to reformulate away from them in recent years.
Indeeed, recent research published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology shows that the proportion of foods on the German market containing trans-fatty acids (TFA) is declining – especially within the former high risk food groups such as French fries, margarines and shortenings.
However, the authors led by Katrin Kuhnt from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, noted that there is a considerable variation of TFA content, “with mainly bakery products and confectioneries having extremely high values, predominantly associated with high total fat and SFA proportion.”
Kuhnt and her colleagues added that the TFA content of foods could be reduced by the introduction of mandatory regulations and modifications in the hydrogenation process of oils.
Pan-European food industry trade body, FoodDrinkEurope, last spring pointed out that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established in 2004 that the intake of trans fats in most EU member states was already below the WHO recommendation maximum of 1% of total energy, leading it to conclude that they are do not pose a public health hazard and maintained that they should be labelled "on a voluntary basis".
Whilst the situation in Germany seems to be mixed, Barbara Gallani, director of food safety & science at the Food and Drink Federation told FoodNavigator last autumn that trans fats have been virtually eliminated from processed foods in the UK, due to “a significant focus on reformulation by UK food manufacturers.”
“This move away from artificial trans fats has been confirmed by data published by the Department of Health last week which analysed a variety of processed foods for trans fatty acids,” said Gallani.
“The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that reductions already made have resulted in the consumption of trans fats falling from 2.1% of total energy in 1985 to an estimated 0.8% of total energy in 2010, which is well below the maximum UK and WHO recommendations.
The UK government has concluded that TFAs at current intake levels do not pose health risks to UK consumers, an opinion with which we concur,” she added.
To discuss this and other issues tune into the BakeryFormulation 2012 vitural conference on Thursday 29 March, organised by FoodNavigator.
Featuring insight from leading voices in the industry, the conference will help formulators, nutritionists, marketers and brand development managers understand what constitutes tomorrow’s value added bakery and cereal lines and how to formulate them. To register or find out more, go to the virtual conference website .