DOH aims to remove industrial trans fats in PH food supply by 2023

Published July 8, 2021, 6:33 PM

by Analou de Vera


The Department of Health (DOH) has issued an administrative order (AO) aimed at eliminating industrially-produced trans fatty acids (TFA) in the country’s food supply by 2023.

The DOH urged food manufacturers to remove TFA in their products within the next two years.

“By 2023, we hope that industrially-produced trans fatty acids will be eliminated from our nation’s food supply,” said DOH-Health Promotion Bureau-Policy and Technology Section head Rodley Carza in an online forum on Thursday, July 8, as he discussed the DOH-AO No. 2021-0039.

The DOH defined industrially-produced TFA as “artificial trans fat that is developed through the partial hydrogenation of oils, as opposed to the naturally occurring trans fatty acids that are found in the fat of animal origin. Also developed in small amounts through re-heating and frying of oils at high temperature.”

Under the AO, it aims to provide guidance to “reduce TFA intake among Filipinos to less than one percent of the recommended total energy intake.”

This can be done by regulating pre-packaged food products containing TFA; enabling the replacement of TFA with alternative oils, fats, and oilseeds; and by increasing awareness of the negative impacts of TFA to the public.

Examples of food products with industrially-produced TFA are pre-packed goods such as chips, cookies, and biscuits; baked goods like bread and pastries; spreads, butter, and shortening.

Meanwhile, Carza noted that the AO is not aimed at eliminating such products in the market.

“This will nudge food manufacturers to reformulate their products to replace TFA,” he said.

“Replacing industrially produced TFAs with other alternative fats and oils leads to no significant difference in the taste or cost of food,” he added.

Carza said that high-intake of TFA increases the risk of a person developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

“Studies have consistently suggested that there is no safe level of trans fatty acid consumption and it has no known health benefit,” said Carza.

“In fact, it has been coined as the tobacco of food,” he added.

NDCs linked to high TFA consumption include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, coronary heart diseases, among others.

“Globally, approximately 540,000 deaths each year can be attributed to the high intake of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids,” the DOH stated in its AO, citing the World Health Organization’s NCD Report in 2017.

“In the Philippines, about 3,000 people each year suffer from premature mortality related to high consumption of TFAs,” it added.