Mandatory labeling of food products with trans-fats-A A +A
Friday, July 13, 2012
A METRO Manila legislator is pushing for the mandatory labeling of food products containing industrially produced trans-fatty acids (IC-TFA) to protect and promote the right to health of the people and instill health consciousness among them.
According to Representative Maria Theresa Bonoan-David (fourth district, Manila), the labeling requirements provided for in the present law, Republic Act 7394, otherwise known as the "Consumer Act of the Philippines" do not expressly require information on the fat and cholesterol content of food products.
"Thus, not all consumer food products contain such information," she said.
At present, she said heart disease and hypertension are among the leading causes of death and morbidity among Filipinos.
And in the prevention of illness due to hypertension and heart disease, she stressed that strict compliance with dietary restrictions is crucial.
"Hence, many consumers are gradually becoming more conscious about nutrition and the nutritional contents of the food they purchase and eat. In this regard, better informed consumers are better able to make choices," said Bonoan-David, who formalized her food labeling proposal in House Bill 6192.
The bill notes the policy of the State to protect the interests of the consumer, promote his or her general welfare and establish quality standards in food products to protect the health and the general welfare of the public.
As such, the state shall implement measures to achieve the protection against hazards to health and safety and provide programs on Information, Education and Communication Campaign (IEC) to educate the general public based on the bill.
The measure defines trans-fatty acids or "trans-fats" as a type of unsaturated fat found when oils are hardened by partially hydrogenating it to make it more solid. Partially hydrogenated oil is found to be more stable and does not go rancid easily like the usual liquid vegetable oil and it remains solid at room temperature. It is found in foods from animal meats and skin, dairy products and some vegetables. Trans fat is the common name for unsaturated fat with trans-isomer (E-isomer) fatty acid(s). Because the term refers to the configuration of a double carbon-carbon bond, trans fats are sometimes monounsaturated or polyunsaturated, but never saturated. Trans fats do exist in nature but also occur during the processing of polyunsaturated fatty acids in food production.
The distinction is important because trans fatty acids generated naturally by enzyme action are generally beneficial, whereas those generated by physical agents such as heat or pressure can lead to a variety of health problems.
The consumption of trans fats increases the risk of coronary heart disease by raising levels of LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of "good" HDL cholesterol.
There is an ongoing debate about a possible differentiation between trans fats of natural origin and trans fats of vegetable origin but so far no scientific consensus was found.
Two Canadian studies, that received funding by the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and the Dairy Farmers of Canada, have shown that the natural trans fat vaccenic acid, found in beef and dairy products, may have an opposite health effect and could actually be beneficial compared to hydrogenated vegetable shortening, or a mixture of pork lard and soy fat, e.g. lowering total and LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In lack of recognized evidence and scientific agreement, nutritional authorities consider all trans fats as equally harmful for health and recommend that consumption of trans fats be reduced to trace amounts.
Unsaturated fat is a fat molecule containing one or more double bonds between the carbon atoms.
Since the carbons are double-bonded to each other, there are fewer bonds connected to hydrogen, so there are fewer hydrogen atoms, hence the name, “unsaturated.” Cis and trans are terms that refer to the arrangement of the two hydrogen atoms bonded to the carbon atoms involved in a double bond. In the cis arrangement, the hydrogens are on the same side of the double bond. In the trans arrangement, the hydrogens are on opposite sides of the double bond.
The process of hydrogenation adds hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats, eliminating double bonds and making them into partially or completely saturated fats.
However, partial hydrogenation, if it is chemical rather than enzymatic, converts a part of cis-isomers into trans-unsaturated fats instead of hydrogenating them completely.
Trans fats also occur naturally in a limited number of cases: Vaccenyl and conjugated linoleyl (CLA) containing trans fats occur naturally in trace amounts in meat and dairy products from ruminants, although the latter also constitutes a cis fat.
It defines "label" or "labeling" as the display of written, printed or graphic matter on any consumer product or its immediate container, tag, literature or other suitable material affixed thereto for the purpose of giving information so as to identify components, ingredients, attributes, directions for use, specifications and such other information as may be required by law or by requirements.
The bill provides for a fine of P50,000 to P200,000 or imprisonment of six months to four years, or both, at the discretion of the court as penalty or penalties for any person who shall violate the provisions of the proposed Act.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on July 14, 2012.