Health Canada

Health Canada

June 20, 2007 13:05 ET

Health Canada: Canada's New Government Calls on Industry to Adopt Limits for Trans Fat

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 20, 2007) - Health Minister Tony Clement today announced that Health Canada is adopting the Trans Fat Task Force’s recommendation on trans fats in Canadian foods, by calling on Canada’s food industry to limit the trans fat content of vegetable oils and soft, spreadable margarines to 2 percent of the total fat content, and to limit the trans fat content for all other foods to 5 percent, including ingredients sold to restaurants.

The Trans Fat Task Force, a multi-stakeholder group led by Health Canada in conjunction with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, submitted recommendations to the Minister of Health in June 2006.

"Canada's New Government supports the reduction of trans fats as a way to ensure that Canadians can reduce their risk of heart disease and be healthy today and in the future," said Minister Clement. "We are giving industry two years to reduce trans fats to the lowest levels possible as recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force. If significant progress has not been made over the next two years, we will regulate to ensure the levels are met."

"Health Canada's adoption of the Trans Fat Task Force recommendations is an important step towards the elimination of processed trans fats in our foods," said Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and co-chair of the Task Force. "But we cannot be complacent. We need to ensure that industry continues to work to meet the Task Force's recommendations. The Heart and Stroke Foundation, in partnership with Health Canada, will actively monitor foods in Canada to make sure Canadians have healthier choices."

Canada was the first country to require that the levels of trans fat in pre-packaged food be included on the mandatory nutrition label. This requirement was intended, in part, to act as an incentive for the food industry to decrease the trans fat content of foods. It has clearly had the desired effect as demonstrated by the significant number of products that have already been reformulated.

The approach being announced today will provide the food industry with the time required to reformulate products that still contain high levels of trans fats. The announcement will also maintain good will by acknowledging that significant progress has already been made. To ensure that industry is making progress, Health Canada will closely monitor the actions of industry over the next two years.

Canada's New Government will also continue to work with partners in the months and years ahead to raise awareness and educate the public about the health benefits of reducing trans fats, and look for further opportunities to help Canadians make healthier food choices.

Since 2006, Canada's New Government has introduced a number of measures to improve the health of Canadians, which include announcing:

- A Heart Health Strategy to fight heart disease in Canada;
- A National Strategy to control cancer;
- A revised Canada's Food Guide and new Aboriginal Food Guide;
- A Children's Fitness Tax Credit to encourage children to
engage in physical activity;
- An Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth to provide
recommendations by July 2007;
- A renewed ParticipACTION
- A Health Pregnancy Campaign to raise awareness of the
health considerations for a healthy pregnancy; and
- A new website

For more information on trans fat and nutrition, please visit

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What are trans fats?

Fats in foods are made up of four different types of fatty acids - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans. Trans fats are found naturally at low levels in some animal-based foods, but are also formed when liquid oils are made into semi-solid fats like shortening and hard margarine.

Where do trans fats come from?

Small amounts of trans fat (generally 2-5% of the fat content) are naturally present in foods such as dairy products, beef and lamb. Some liquid vegetable oils such as canola and soybean, and fish oils, also contain small amounts of trans fats, which are formed in the commercial refinement of these oils. These oils may contain up to 2.5% trans fatty acids, but are also important sources of the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Trans fat is also formed when manufacturers use a chemical process that turns liquid oil into a semi-solid form, like shortening and margarines. This process is referred to as "partial hydrogenation." Fats and oils that are solid or semi-solid at room temperature have advantages for food production. They are more stable and break down less easily under conditions of high temperature heating. These properties make them better for frying. Products made with these fats also have a longer shelf life than if made with liquid oils.

Why are trans fats an issue?

Science shows that consuming either saturated or trans fat raises the blood levels of the so-called 'bad' cholesterol (serum LDL-cholesterol). LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. In addition to raising 'bad' cholesterol, trans fat also reduces the blood levels of the so-called 'good' cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol). HDL-cholesterol protects against heart disease.

What is the situation in Canada?

Canadians' consumption of trans fats has declined by 40 per cent over the past decade (from 8.3g per day to 4.9 g). While encouraging, we are continuing to work with industry and other stakeholders to address this very important health issue.

Studies carried out by Canada during the past three years have shown that most major food manufacturers have successfully switched from using partially hydrogenated oils to non-hydrogenated oils (i.e. oils containing little or no trans fats) in the preparation of food products. Some of the food products that now meet the limits established by the Task Force include infant foods, soft margarines, granola bars, crackers, potato chips, and corn chips. Further information on these analyses will be published on Health Canada's website.

How much is too much?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the total amount of trans fats consumed per day should be less than 1% of your daily energy intake.

The Trans Fat Task Force, a multi-stakeholder group, was charged with recommending ways to reduce processed trans fats in Canadian food to the lowest possible level. While many foods do not contain trans fat, the Task Force determined that by limiting trans fat in oils to 2% of the total fat and to 5% in all other foods, the total trans fat intake of Canadians would be reduced to below the WHO recommendation.

What has Health Canada done?

Canada was the first country to require that the levels of trans fat in pre-packaged food be included on the mandatory nutrition label. New nutrition labeling regulations, that became mandatory for most pre-packaged foods on December 12, 2005, require that Calories and the content of 13 core nutrients, including trans fat, be listed on the labels. This requirement is having the desired effect on the manufacturing industry - many companies have already taken action to reduce or even eliminate trans fat in their products.

An important component of the national public awareness campaign on healthy eating currently under way, the recently revised Canada's Food Guide also contains explicit recommendations to limit trans fat and saturated fat in your diet.

What action is planned?

Health Canada has just announced that it will adopt the recommendation put forth by the Trans Fat Task Force to limit the amount of trans fats in foods. Recognizing the significant progress that has already been made in reducing trans fats in the Canadian food supply, Health Canada has given industry a two-year window to reduce trans fats to the lowest levels possible. The Department will closely monitor the efforts of industry to ensure that progress has been made to achieve these limits. If significant progress has not been made to achieve the limits established by the Task Force - 2% total fat content for vegetable oils and soft, spreadable margarines and a limit of 5% of the total fat content for all other foods, including ingredients sold to restaurants - the Department will regulate their reduction.

Currently, three Health Canada laboratories (Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg) are measuring the trans fat content of those food groups which, in earlier studies, had contained the highest amount of trans fats, including fried foods, baked goods and a number of foods from fast food restaurants. The department will continue this analysis as part of its ongoing monitoring efforts and publish results as they become available. In the meantime, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) will continue to enforce the requirements for mandatory nutrition labelling. In prioritizing its activities, the CFIA will focus on commodities such as bakery products, snack foods and confectionary products that tend to have elevated levels of trans and saturated fat.

What about other fats?

While consuming too much fat should be avoided and certain types of fat are unhealthy, fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fat in the diet allows the body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A, D, and E. In general terms, saturated and trans fat tend to increase the risk of heart disease, while monounsaturated fat and omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats tend to lower the risk of heart disease. Oils high in monounsaturates are olive oil and canola oil. Omega-6 polyunsaturates are highest in vegetable oils such as corn, sunflower and soybean oils; and omega-3 polyunsaturates are highest in vegetable oils such as canola and soybean oils, as well as in fish oils.

Contact Information

  • Media Enquiries:
    Health Canada
    Paul Duchesne
    Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
    Federal Minister of Health
    Erik Waddell
    Public Enquiries:
    613-957-2991 or 1-866 225-0709