The dozen members of the International Food and Beverage Alliance — including Nestlé, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo — have agreed to limit industrially produced trans fat to 2 grams per 100 grams of fat or oil in their products by 2023, according to an IFBA release.
This action is in response to the World Health Organization’s goal of eliminating these trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. WHO has estimated consumption of industrial trans fats — which are in many processed CPG foods including snacks, baked items and fried products — contributes to more than 500,000 deaths annually from cardiovascular disease.
The IFBA, founded in 2008, consists of Coca-Cola, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Grupo Bimbo, Kellogg, Mars Wrigley, McDonald’s, Mondelez International, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever.
Industrially produced trans fats are in hardened vegetable fats — such as margarine and ghee. In addition to their use as spreads, they also appear in processed foods, FoodBev reported. They have a longer shelf life than other fats, which accounts for their wide use by food manufacturers.
However, WHO noted healthier fat and oil alternatives that won't affect the taste or cost of food are available. Among those alternatives are unsaturated fatty acids, which are liquid at room temperature, and include non-GMO soy, canola and corn oils.
In 2016, all IFBA members except McDonald's committed to reducing the industrially produced trans fats in their products to no more than 1 gram per 100 grams of product by the end of last year. McDonald's did join with the others on this latest commitment. WHO said the earlier agreement was achieved in about 98.5% of member companies' global products because of the phase-out of partially hydrogenated oils.
WHO suggests the total consumption of trans-fatty acids be less than 1% of total energy intake, meaning less than 2.2 grams per day in a 2,000 calorie diet. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined in 2015 that PHOs no longer have generally recognized as safe status, meaning they cannot be used in food products. The agency gave food makers a deadline of June 18, 2018, to remove these substances, eventually extending the deadline to Jan. 1, 2020, for products made before June 18, 2018, to "work their way through distribution."
Some countries — particularly low- and middle-income ones — still have a ways to go to control the use of industrially produced trans fats, WHO noted. Research from 2010 indicated the countries with the highest intake were Egypt, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico and Bahrain. Still, recent progress being made by the food industry and government regulators has encouraged the international public health organization to keep the pressure on.
It's not quick or easy for food makers to reduce the amount of trans fats in their products, but there are benefits to doing so. As more consumers keep a close eye on their fat consumption, manufacturers are smart to shift formulations to healthier fats and inform shoppers of the move. It could give their brands an important profile boost and even a price tag one, plus it could provide a competitive edge to help differentiate their products from the competition.