Trans Fatty Acids

Trans Fatty Acids

Among the fatty acids, some of them are called “trans fatty acids or TFA”.  “Trans fatty acids” refers to fatty acids with at least one non-conjugated (namely interrupted by at least one methylene group) carbon-carbon double bond in the trans configuration (Regulation 1169/2011).

TFA can originate from animals as they are produced in the rumen of ruminant animals and hence are found in dairy products, butter and meat. They can also come from the hydrogenation of vegetable oils and fats and also arise during the refining process of vegetable oils and fats, as indicated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

For EFSA, and as highlighted in the Commission report, “evidence is insufficient to establish whether there is a difference between ruminant and industrial TFA consumed in equivalent amounts on the risk of coronary heart disease”. Hence, there is no reason to believe that TFA from animal origin have a different effect on human health than TFA from vegetable origin.

Over the past 15 years, FEDIOL members have been supporting industry initiatives to reduce TFA in vegetable oils and fats, including reformulation, optimisation of refining processes and by establishing a code of good manufacturing practices. Following these numerous industry actions, low TFA vegetable oil and fat formulations are provided to consumers, enabling overall reductions in the TFA content of food products. 

FEDIOL has been active in the topic of TFA for many years. It took part in the Commission consultation in 2014 (FEDIOL input here). This led to the Commission report on TFA published in end 2015.

Since 2014, FEDIOL supports the setting of an EU 2% non-ruminant TFA legal limit on fat basis in products intended to final consumers TOGETHER WITH the deletion of the existing full/partial hydrogenation labelling as prescribed by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011.

For more details on FEDIOL position, see here.

To understand why vegetable oils can be hydrogenated and how it is linked to the current TFA debate, look at the FEDIOL infographic here.

In 2017, the Commission launched an Inception Impact Assessment process initiating a full Impact Assessment, which is expected to be finalised later in 2017. FEDIOL provided feedback, available here.

As of June 16, 2015, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). This means that after June 18, 2018, the use of PHOs in food will only be permitted after FDA approval.Having assessed the US approach and its implications, FEDIOL is convinced that the US approach should not be applied in Europe. Instead, an EU 2% non-ruminant TFA legal limit on fat basis in products intended to final consumers would be the most appropriate means of addressing TFA intakes in Europe, for the reasons described here.

FEDIOL continues to providing input to the stakeholders’ consultations and being active on this issue.