Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Move To Transform Processed Foods

"We call on food producers in our sector to take prompt action and we stand ready to support effective measures to work toward the elimination of industrially produced trans fats and ensure a level playing field in this area."
Rocco Rinaldi, secretary-general, International Food and Beverage Alliance

"This initiative is meant to lead countries in establishing legislation to eliminate the trans fats." 
"There are countries where the risk is particularly high. In South Asian countries, they have very, very high risk of heart disease and high intakes of trans fats."
"There are some Latin American countries, but they're already taking action. Mexico was a country where the intake was very high. South Africa was having problems, but then they established legislation. It is happening in more countries in the Middle East, but the information we have is limited."
Dr. Francesco Branca, director, Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland

"Non-communicable diseases [also known as chronic diseases, tend to result from a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioral factors, such as diet; cardiovascular diseases, associated with consuming a diet high in artificial trans fats, are an example of a non-communicable disease] are the world's leading cause of death."
"WHO is committed to supporting countries to reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases."
Dr. Tedros Adhanom, Director-General, WHO (World Health Organization)
"What we found in New York City was that industry wasn't really willing to fight us on this. Artificial trans fats are 'easily replaceable'."
"You don't need to change the taste or cost or availability for great food. Only your heart will know the difference -- and that's why the call of the initiative to become trans-fat-free by 2023 is so very important."
Dr. Tom Frieden, former director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Really, I think it takes legislation to make a big change like that in terms of overall population health, along with policy and nutrition education."
"In many developing countries, they're trying to Westernize their diets [and in the United States], We have been a leader of -- when we talk about the Westernized diet -- preparing processed foods. Hopefully, we're going to be a leader again towards eating more whole foods, such as the healthful Mediterranean diet [focus high on plant-based meals of vegetables, fruit, beans and cereals. Including plenty of fish and some poultry]." 
Lynn James, registered dietitian, senior extension educator, Pennsylvania State University 
Artificial trans fats are unhealthy substances that are created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it solid, like in the creation of margarine or shortening. Health experts say they can be replaced with canola oil or other products. (Darron Cummings/Associated Press)
Our 'convenient' way of life has led us to accept the consumption of convenience food, as a time-saver. Pre-prepared and processed foods have long become a mainstay in peoples' diets everywhere across the Globe. Where the use of trans fats became the industry standard to keep processed foods shelf-ready and good tasting with a long shelf life, until the reputation of trans fats suffered a reputation setback when science revealed that it was leading to the onset of chronic diseases in those for whom a steady diet included far too many products using trans fats.

Whole food consumption decreased in popularity since it couldn't compete with the allure of processed foods that didn't require home preparation. Haul it off the supermarket shelves, take it home, eat it and gloat at the convenience of it all. Until the connection was made between trans fats and unhealthy outcomes reflecting its consumption. Despite which the popularity of processed and pre-prepared foods failed to decline, consumers were just too dependent on its convenience. So the next step was public education.

Campaigns led by government agencies and NGOs were mounted to inform people of the inherent dangers in relying so heavily on foods owing much of their appeal to the trans fats used in producing them. And while a certain percentage of the consuming public took note and amended their diets, by and far the largest proportion had no intention of doing so; it was just too inconvenient. And ill health was a long way into the future for those not suffering ill effects while the accumulated exposure built itself toward the future.
A deep-fried, potato-based snack.
Image: Chmee2/Wikimedia
Some jurisdictions -- notably New York City -- legislated against the use of trans fats by food producers and food preparers, as a dramatic last resort in the hope that doing so would result in fewer residents of the city falling victim to chronic illnesses. Now, the World Health Organization which has traditionally focused on eradicating infectious diseases has turned its attention to a new direction, the imperative to attempt to solve a remediable problem worldwide impacting populations everywhere as the North American staple diet of processed foods presents in developing countries as a desirable change placing them alongside developed countries, modernizing food consumption.

The WHO's ambitious plan is to erase the foremost consumable hazard linked to the onset of chronic illness. Trans fats used in baked and processed foods, leads to the deaths of over a half million people every year from heart disease, according to the WHO. "It's a crisis level, and it's a major front in our fight now", stated WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, in Geneva. An aspirational date of five years has been contemplated as the probable date by which food manufacturers can complete their switch over to a replacement ingredient in food processing.

Fifteen years earlier Denmark made the switch. Now, the United States and over 40 other high income countries have set their sights on seeing that additives known to be heart-cloggers are no longer used in food supplies. The WHO's focus now is primarily on middle- and lower-income countries, to begin the process of legislating cessation of trans fats in food products, unhealthy substances created when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil, making it solid (think margarine or shortening). 

No more than one percent of a person's calories should come from trans fats, according to the WHO recommendation. 

French fries - large pile
Photo: Scott Ableman    Trans fats is often found in deep-fried foods

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