World Health Organization Launches Global Campaign Against Trans Fats

The UN's health agency urges developing nations to eliminate the mostly man-made fats from food.

trans fat
Chann Kim, owner of Donut City in Lynn, has changed his flour mix and shortening so he can be compliant with the no trans fat rules, but he is having trouble finding a substitute for the chocolate icing on donuts. (Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

The World Health Organization urged developing nations on Monday to follow the lead of affluent countries and eliminate man-made trans fatty acids from their food supplies. The campaign is an effort to save half a million lives each year. Officials from the United Nations’ health agency said there are six specific steps countries could take to reduce a large wave of heart disease and strokes that result in more than 500,000 deaths annually.

“Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed” to it, said Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who now leads an initiative called Resolve to Save Lives, to the Los Angeles Times. 

Some trans fats occur naturally in daily foods or meat from ruminant animals and they do not raise major health concerns, but many others are industrially made. These fats are created by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, converting liquid fats to a solid at room temperature. These make processed foods cheaper to produce and extend their shelf life. Food manufacturers supplying U.S. consumers are expected to have changed their production processes to reduce trans fat use to negligible levels by next month.

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