29 Sept 2017
Canada to Ban Partially Hydrogenated Oils in Food
The Canadian government has decided to adopt a proposal to ban effective from 15 September 2018 the use of partially hydrogenated oils in foods by means of an amendment to Part 1 of the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods. The prohibition covers both domestically produced and imported products and foods, as well as those that are prepared and served in restaurants and food service establishments.
PHOs are defined as fats and oils that have been hydrogenated and have an iodine value greater than four. These two conditions must be met in order for a fat or oil to be considered a PHO. This definition is consistent with that set out by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its final determination regarding PHOs. The definition covers PHOs used in foods destined for human consumption as well as PHOs added to foods for minor use applications or technical purposes such as pan release agents.
PHOs used in products other than foods, such as natural health products and drugs, fall outside the scope of this definition. Examples of excluded ingredients include PHOs used as raw materials to synthesise other ingredients as well as ingredients derived from PHOs so long as the resulting ingredients no longer contain PHOs and the trans fatty acids initially present in the raw materials are not found in the final food; conjugated linoleic acids; partially hydrogenated methyl ester of rosin; ingredients that contain only naturally occurring trans fats (e.g., non-hydrogenated ruminant sources); and ingredients or foods containing trans fats that have been produced inadvertently as an outcome of high temperature processing. Also excluded are fully hydrogenated oils, which are oils that have been hydrogenated but have an iodine value of four or less.
The Canadian government notes that the major source of industrially produced trans fats in the food supply are PHOs, which are produced via partial hydrogenation. The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in Canada. In light of the adverse health effects of trans fats, several authoritative health bodies, such as the Institute of Medicine and the Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation, have recommended limiting their consumption. Since the early 2000s, Health Canada has pursued a multi-faceted approach aimed at reducing the trans fat intakes of Canadians, including introducing mandatory trans fat labelling, setting voluntary targets for processed foods, and establishing a two year monitoring and open reporting programme to measure industry’s progress toward meeting the voluntary targets.
Although these initiatives proved successful in reducing trans fat levels in the Canadian food supply, some foods still contain PHOs. These foods include some commercially baked goods (e.g., cookies) as well as some shortenings and certain types of margarines. Canadian officials believe that this can be a health concern for Canadians who choose these foods regularly as well as vulnerable sub-populations that are at risk for higher trans fat intakes, such as children and teens. The government adds that proceeding with the PHO ban will effectively reduce trans fats in the food supply to the lowest level possible and will also help achieve the public health objective of reducing trans fat intake by the great majority of Canadians to less than one percent of total energy intake.