GENEVA (Reuters) – The world could eliminate industrially-produced trans fats by 2023, the World Health Organization said on Monday, unveiling a plan that it said would prevent 500,000 deaths per year from cardiovascular disease.
Trans fats are popular with manufacturers of fried, baked and snack foods because they have a long shelf life, but they are bad for consumers, increasing heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent, a WHO statement said.
“Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in the statement.
Implementing the WHO’s strategy for replacing trans fats, including promoting healthier alternatives and legislating against the harmful ingredients, would remove them from the food chain and score a major victory against heart disease, he said.
Several rich countries have already virtually eliminated trans fats by putting limits on the amounts allowed in packaged foods. Some have banned partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats, the WHO said.
“Trans-fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed,” said Tom Frieden, a former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control who now leads the Resolve health initiative.
Earlier this month WHO issued its first draft recommendations on trans fats since 2002, saying adults and children should consume a maximum of one percent of their daily calories in the form of trans fats.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Catherine Evans