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Health Canada proposes ban on partially hydrogenated oils

Health Canada proposes ban on partially hydrogenated oils

Health Canada has unveiled proposals to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils  - a key source of harmful trans fats in foods - by summer 2018 (aligning with the US deadline) by adding them to the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods. 

Its Notice of Proposal has been posted online with a June 21 deadline for comments.

Explaining the rationale behind the move, Health Canada said: "Maintaining the current voluntary approach would not address products that still contain PHOs, and would be insufficient to achieve the public health objective of reducing the trans fat intakes of the great majority of Canadians to less than 1% of total energy intake.

"Health Canada intends to provide further information to stakeholders regarding more healthful alternatives to PHOs (e.g., unsaturated rather than saturated fats).

"Furthermore, Health Canada’s proposal to include a front of pack warning on products that are high in saturated fats would also serve in certain cases, as a disincentive for industry to replace PHOs with saturated fats."

What are partially hydrogenated oils?

Partially hydrogenated oils are made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil via a partial hydrogenation process, which can make liquid oils more solid at room temperature (enabling firms to use liquid vegetable oils in baking instead of butter where a more solid fat is required, for example).

PHOs can also increase the shelf life of foods.  

However, they can also create harmful trans fats, which have been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease.

'Fully' or 'completely' hydrogenated oil doesn't contain trans fat.

Scope of the ban

Health Canada proposes to define PHOs in the Food and Drug Regulations as fats and oils that:

  1. have been hydrogenated, but not to complete or near complete saturation, and
  2. have an iodine value (IV) greater than 4

This is consistent with the definition set out by the US FDA in its Final Determination Regarding Partially Hydrogenated Oils.

Exclusions: 

  • PHOs used as raw materials to synthesize other ingredients as well as ingredients derived from PHOs so long as the trans fatty acids 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 which have been introduced inadvertently as an outcome of high temperature processing.

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