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Public kept in the dark over artery-clogging fat

3 September 2006

Public kept in the dark over artery-clogging fat - Greens

The Government must act swiftly to reduce New Zealanders' exposure to artificially produced trans fatty acids, which are added to many everyday foods, in light of new research showing they significantly increase the risk of heart disease, the Green Party says.

The research, published recently in the British Medical Journal, found a 23 per cent increase in coronary heart disease resulted after just a 2 percent increase in the consumption of trans fatty acids.

Trans fat is found mainly in deep fried fast foods and processed foods such as biscuits, pastry goods and sandwich spreads made with margarine or shortening. It is created by a process call hydrogenation in which vegetable oils are heated to very high temperatures and hydrogen bubbled through it to harden the fat so it will not melt easily in high temperatures and will have a long shelf life.

"This is strong evidence that consuming trans fatty acids significantly increases the risk of coronary heart disease yet the Government and food labelling authority, FSANZ, have failed to warn New Zealanders about this risk or to reduce their presence in the food supply," Ms Kedgley says.

These fats are known to raise blood cholesterol levels and clog arteries, deplete good cholesterol and increase bad cholesterol. They have no known nutritional benefits. The study concludes that near elimination of trans fatty acids in industrially produced food could avert 19 percent of coronary heart attacks a year.

"Other countries have taken decisive action on trans fats. The United States requires trans fats to be identified on labels and Denmark has virtually eliminated all of them from its food supply.

"FSANZ, by contrast, has downplayed the risk and only requires trans fats to be declared on a nutrition label when health claims are made.

"We are calling on the Government to follow the Danish example and mandate that all oils and fats used in locally made or imported foods must contain less than 2 percent industrially produced trans fatty acids.

"As an interim measure we should require the trans fats content be declared on food labels along with a warning to consumers about the health risks. But the final goal must be to rid trans fats from the food supply," Ms Kedgley says.

"Coronary heart disease is the leading single cause of death in New Zealand, killing thousands of New Zealanders every year. The Government's failure to act is irresponsible."

ENDS

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