By Constantin Bertoli
Senior expert in fats and oils at the Nestlé Product Technology Centre Nutrition, Konolfingen, Switzerland
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the civil society organisation Resolve to Save Lives have announced a plan to achieve the removal of industrial trans-fat from the global food supply by 2023. This is a major step by international bodies to address a long-standing issue in the global food chain.
Artificial trans-fat increases the risk of heart attack and death. Scientific evidence shows that their intake is harmful to health as it increases “bad cholesterol” and, consequently, the risk of coronary heart disease. It is also associated with a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Globally, artificial trans-fat intake is estimated to cause 540,000 deaths every year. Trans fatty acids (TFA) are not required in the diet. Moreover, they are not synthesized by the body.
Trans-fats occur naturally in foods such as milk and meat. But most industrially produced trans-fats in the human diet come from foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs), such as bakery and savoury snacks.
At Nestlé, we share consumers’ and health authorities’ concerns about the health effects of trans-fat from partially hydrogenated oils (PHO). That is why our objective is the complete removal of all trans-fats originating from PHO. In 2014, we strengthened our policy to remove all trans-fats originating from PHO from our foods and beverages. Now 99.8% of the fats and oils we use meet our Nestlé Policy on Trans Fat (pdf, 1.5 Mb). This forms part of our commitment to making tastier and healthier foods, and helps fulfill our purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future.
As a major food and beverage producer, and a member of the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA), Nestlé supports a legislative limit for the amount of industrially produced TFA in foods. We also encourage initiatives to accelerate the removal of them from food and beverage products. In Europe, Nestlé, other companies and NGOs have consistently advocated for the European Commission to propose a legislative limit for the amount of industrially produced TFA in foods to 2 g per 100 g of fat. Legislation enables the entire industry to raise the bar and have population-wide positive impacts.
We are currently engaging with WHO via the IFBA with a proposed commitment on the complete elimination of PHO, as well as the commitment to sharing technical information. Furthermore we are collaborating with RESOLVE to campaign on the elimination of trans-fats origination from PHO.
Beyond our own Policy and commitment, we want to use our voice to call for the elimination of industrial trans-fats from PHO, across packaged and non-packed foods. We believe strong, comprehensive and science-based nutrition policies and initiatives such as this one will support the fight against nutrition related diseases, and promote good health.
Constantin Bertoli is part of the research team working to eliminate trans-fats across Nestlé’s portfolio.