Poor food labelling is putting health at risk

Sydney Morning Herald

Monday June 8, 2009

Kelly Burke Consumer Affairs Reporter

AUSTRALIANS are eating double the amount of saturated fat recommended by health authorities and have no way of knowing the level of artificial trans fatty acids they consume because of lax food labelling laws.A review of the health effects of Australians' fat consumption has prompted the Heart Foundation to call for mandatory labelling of food containing trans fats and for people to focus more on the type of fats they consume, rather than their total fat intake.While total fat and saturated fat content must be declared on all processed foods, it is not mandatory for manufacturers to declare the presence of trans fats, which are added to many baked goods such as pastries and biscuits to improve texture or to extend shelf life. Small traces of trans fats naturally occur in meat and dairy foods.The foundation's review found research concurred that trans fats were non-essential and contributed significantly to cardiovascular disease. Upper safe limits of consumption have not been set because any intake would increase the risk of developing heart disease, the review concluded.A Harvard School of Public Health analysis of 140,000 men and women found that a 2 per cent total intake of calories from trans fats translated to a 23 per cent higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease.In the US, manufacturers are compelled to declare trans fats in their products. A recent review of trans fats consumption by Food Standards Australia New Zealand concluded that regulatory intervention was not required, however, because average consumption was less than 1 per cent.Susan Anderson, the director of the foundation's healthy weight program, said food authorities were relying on old data. We're telling people they must reduce their trans fats consumption, but people have no idea what level of trans fats they're consuming because they are not labelled, she said.

© 2009 Sydney Morning Herald

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