Canada put a ban on artificial trans fats into effect Sept. 17, with Health Canada adding partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats in foods, to its “List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances.”
The ban makes it illegal for manufacturers to add artificial trans fats to their products and the rule will apply to all foods produced for sale in the country, including imported products and foods prepared and served in restaurants and foodservice establishments, reported CBC (Sept. 16).
In May 2018, the World Health Organization announced a large-scale plan to urge governments around the globe to eliminate the use of trans fats. While Canada is among a number of countries who have already moved to restrict or ban trans fats, WHO still has a lot of work to do.
The U.S.’s plan to ban any products that contained industrially produced trans fats, as well as Thailand’s trans fat ban were already in the works at that point, but trans fats remain popular in many emerging economies in Asia and Africa. In South Asia, for instance, local producers dominate the edible oil industry and regulations are weak or nonexistent.
Denmark was a pioneer in the banning of trans fats, which it did in 2003, and Switzerland, Canada, the UK and the U.S. followed suit in voicing their concerns over the impact trans fats have on consumers’ heart health.
Manuel Arango, director of health policy and advocacy at the Heart and Stroke Foundation, called Canada’s ban an “important milestone” in the country’s nutrition policy.
After the U.S. announced a ban on trans fats in 2015, which it fully implemented earlier in 2018, a newly elected Justin Trudeau asked his health minister to look into tougher regulations, ultimately leading to the ban.
Even with the ban in place, artificial trans fats won’t be completely gone; they’ll still be in already produced foods on store shelves across the country. As Arango explained it, if food containing trans fats was manufactured before Sept. 17, that food can stay on store shelves, perhaps “for a couple of years,” before being removed.
Retailers will be given a grace period of two years to clear the inventory already on store shelves. A Health Canada official estimated that within three years, there would not be any kind of trans fat products on the shelves.
While Arango believes the ban puts Canada on a clear path toward eliminating trans fats, critics of Canada’s plan includes obesity expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, whose reaction to the new regulations, and the fact some trans fats will remain on store shelves for a while longer, was more muted.
“Some action is better than no action,” Freedhoff said.
That’s true, but I’m less concerned that countries like Canada will see the trans fat ban through than I am about the emerging markets of Asia and Africa taking a firm stance.