More than 20 nations have restricted the use of trans fats in the last 15 years, and major food manufacturers have practically eliminated the use of trans fats in their foods: Nestle has eliminated trans fats from 99.8% of the oils they use; members of the International Food and Beverage Alliance, which include Kellogg, General Mills, and McDonald's, have eliminated trans fats from 98.8% of their global product portfolios; and Mondelez International, the maker of Oreos, is on track to eliminate all partially hydrogenated oils from its products by the end of the year. But the predominant source is industrially-produced and contained in baked and fried foods such as fries and doughnuts, snacks, and partially hydrogenated cooking oils and fats often used by restaurants and street vendors.
The public health arm of the United Nations said it will urge governments to ban or restrict those fats and replace them with healthier fats and oils.
There are also naturally occurring trans fats in some meats and dairy products.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was expected to issue the call to action at a news conference in Geneva on Monday.
Tedros said curbing the use of trans fats would be a centrepiece of WHO's efforts to cut deaths from noncommunicable diseases by a third before 2030, which is one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.
On Monday, the World Health Organization launched an initiative called REPLACE that will provide guidance for all countries on how to remove artificial trans fats from their foods, possibly leading to a worldwide eradication. The initiative, dubbed REPLACE, is aimed at saving the more than 500,000 lives a year that the Geneva, Switzerland-based World Health Organization estimates are lost to cardiovascular disease caused by Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs), the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods.
The REPLACE guide provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the food supply which looks at reviewing dietary sources, promoting replacements and creating awareness, among others.
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Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called trans fats "an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills", noting that NY got rid of it a decade ago.
In 2004, Denmark became the first country in the world to regulate the content of artificial trans fat in certain food products, almost wiping it out of the Danish food supply. "We need to make sure the supply of these oils is adequate for countries to use in this context".
"There was a technological evolution in the food industry and the fat manufacturing companies managed to develop techniques of blending unsaturated and saturated fat to achieve the same functional properties previously generated [by trans fats]", he said.
For instance, "they helped keep the icing on the top of a cupcake solid and prevented it from rolling off the cupcake". When trans fats get removed from the food system, the companies don't stop making cupcakes. "That other type of fat may be slightly healthier than trans fat. But whatever type of fat or fat substitute it is, it won't turn junk food into health food".
"We were not only the first African country, but also the first developing country worldwide to enact the trans fats legislation", said Ntsie.
"The food industry is not monolithic". They take the form of partially hydrogenated oils, which are used to replace lard or shortening in packaged products. "In the long run, I'm confident that industrial trans fat will be eliminated".