The Task Force has identified nutrition labeling regulations as the key in helping consumers reduce trans fat intake. All food manufacturers must provide warnings on any product that contains trans fats, in line with what is happening in the US.
The report also provides guidance on actions to reduce Canadians' intake of trans fats ahead of the December 2005 labeling deadline, something that the food industry has largely welcomed.
Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) president Nancy Croitoru, who represented the food industry on the task force for example, said that many companies are already actively engaged in reducing trans fat.
"Our member companies have been working on reformulating products to eliminate trans fat for several years and many have already launched new trans fat-free products," said Criotoru.
FCPC says that it is that is working to develop recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fat in Canadian foods to the lowest level possible. Many companies have already changed their product labels to include the new nutrition facts information, which includes the amount of trans fat in a product.
All this, says the FCPC, is well in advance of the government's December 12th, 2005 deadline for large manufacturers and 2007 deadline for small manufacturers with less than one million dollars in sales.
The Canadian government has also welcomed the release of the interim report of the Trans Fat Task Force and says that it will now take action to address its recommendations.
"Canadians' consumption of trans fats is one of the highest in the world and the Government of Canada is committed to helping reverse this trend,"said Minister of Health Ujjal Dosanjh.
The Government plans to continue to collaborate with industry to reduce trans fats found in food in Canada and will put together a list of Canadian not-for-profit food processing development centers that can help food companies work towards reducing or eliminating trans fats in their products.
The task force report claims there is strong scientific evidence that a high intake of trans fatty acids can increase the risk of developing heart disease. While low levels of trans fats naturally occur in the diet, the task force found that the high level in the Canadian diet is mainly related to the widespread use of partially hydrogenated oils and shortenings in food manufacturing and food preparation.
Reversing this trend, said the report, is highly justifiable from a public health point of view, thus validating the introduction of new trans fat rules. Under the new regime, a "trans-free" product must contain less than 0.2 g of trans fatty acids in the reference amount (portion size) specified by regulation for that food category, and also in the portion size stated on the label's Nutrition Facts table.
The food must also be low in saturated fats to carry this claim.
However, the Task Force accepted that some small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will face particular challenges in meeting the new regulations, and recommended the 2007 deadline for food firms with less tan one million dollars in sales.
The Task Force says that it will continue to gather information in the coming months and a second public consultation is scheduled for fall 2005. The final report, which will contain recommendations for an appropriate regulatory framework and for the introduction and widespread use of healthy alternatives to trans fats, will be provided to the Minister of Health in late fall 2005.