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BMJ Open. 2014 May 20;4(5):e005218. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005218.

Tracing artificial trans fat in popular foods in Europe: a market basket investigation.

Author information

1
Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Copenhagen University Hospital, Gentofte, Hellerup, Denmark.
2
Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Frederiksberg, Denmark.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To minimise the intake of industrial artificial trans fat (I-TF), nearly all European countries rely on food producers to voluntarily reduce the I-TF content in food. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of this strategy on I-TF content in prepackaged biscuits/cakes/wafers in 2012-2013 in 20 European countries.

DESIGN:

The I-TF content was assessed in a market basket investigation. Three large supermarkets were visited in each capital, and in some countries, three additional ethnic shops were included.

RESULTS:

A total of 598 samples of biscuits/cakes/wafers with 'partially hydrogenated vegetable fat' or a similar term high on the list of ingredients were analysed, 312 products had more than 2% of fat as I-TF, exceeding the legislatively determined I-TF limit in Austria and Denmark; the mean (SD) was 19 (7)%. In seven countries, no I-TF was found, whereas nine predominantly Eastern European countries had products with very high I-TF content, and the remaining four countries had intermediate levels. Of the five countries that were examined using the same procedure as in 2006, three had unchanged I-TF levels in 2013, and two had lower levels. The 18 small ethnic shops examined in six Western European countries sold 83 products. The mean (SD) was 23 (12)% of the fat as I-TF, all imported from countries in Balkan. In Sweden, this type of food imported from Balkan was also available in large supermarkets.

CONCLUSIONS:

The findings suggest that subgroups of the population in many countries in Europe still consume I-TF in amounts that increase their risk of coronary heart disease. Under current European Union (EU) legislation, the sale of products containing I-TF is legal but conflicts with the WHO recommendation to minimise the intake of I-TF. An EU-legislative limit on I-TF content in foods is expected to be an effective strategy to achieve this goal.

KEYWORDS:

Nutrition & Dietetics

PMID:
24844273
PMCID:
PMC4039824
DOI:
10.1136/bmjopen-2014-005218
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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