19 October 2009
The Department of Health is to develop legislation aimed at limiting certain trans-fats in processed and prepared foods in South Africa.
It is hoped that the new legislation will contribute to the reduction of chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and obesity – all of which are associated with the presence of trans-fatty acids in one’s diet.
The legislation will affect all manufactured and pre-packaged foodstuffs, as well as foods prepared by restaurants and fast food outlets, containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient, or where such oil is used for deep frying.
Naturally occurring trans-fatty acids in animal fats, such as in dairy products and meat, are excluded from the proposed new legislation, as they are believed to have certain health benefits.
The department is expected to consult stakeholders on the legislation, and will conduct a workshop on 22 October to provide an opportunity for inputs. The venue for the workshop has yet to be confirmed.
The workshop will include representatives of the industry, bodies dealing with diseases of lifestyle such as the Cancer Association of South Africa, as well as academic and research institutions involved in the promotion of healthy nutrition.
“It is the intention of the department to consult and provide an opportunity for those members of the food industry who will be affected to give inputs or comments on the proposed new legislation,” the department said in a statement last week.
Alternative processing technologies
It said manufacturers could use either alternative technologies for processing vegetable oil without the harmful effects on health, or choose to use more appropriate types of fats and oils in their products.
Countries such as Denmark, Canada and the United States have introduced similar legislation since 2003.
According to the department, it was accomplished without noticeable effects on the availability, price or quality of foods previously containing high amounts of industrially processed trans-fatty acids.