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Trans fats action needed following OZ initiative

25 October 2006

Trans fats action needed following Australian initiative

New Zealand should follow Australia's example and set up high-level initiatives to reduce trans fatty acids in New Zealand food, Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing yesterday announced the establishment of a National Collaboration on Trans Fats that will propose initiatives aimed at reducing the amount of trans fatty acids in food sold in Australia.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will be a leading part of the initiative.

"We urgently need similar action in New Zealand. 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," Ms Kedgley says.

"Recent research concludes that near elimination of trans fatty acids in industrially produced food could avert 19 percent of coronary heart attacks per year. Coronary heart disease is the leading single cause of death in New Zealand, so we should be doing everything we can to get these dangerous fats out of our food supply.

"Given the involvement of FSANZ in the Australian initiative, it should be easy to set up similar action here in New Zealand. The New Zealand Government should immediately set up a group to develop a strategy to reduce and eventually eliminate trans fats entirely from our diet.

"However, voluntary measures will not be enough to combat this problem. There should also be a requirement to declare the trans fat content of any food, so that consumers can make informed choices. At present it is impossible for the ordinary consumer to work out which foods contain trans fats and should be avoided. That is just not good enough," Ms Kedgley says.

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.

ENDS

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