2004-56
November 18, 2004
Health Canada announces multi-stakeholder task force to find ways to reduce trans fat in Canadian food. Support and participation from Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, Industry and Academia
OTTAWA - Fulfilling a commitment made to all parties in the House of Commons, Minister of State for Public Health Carolyn Bennett, on behalf of Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, announced today that Health Canada, in conjunction with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, will work through a multi-stakeholder task force to develop recommendations and strategies for reducing trans fats in Canadian foods to the lowest levels possible. The Standing Committee on Health will be consulted on the membership and mandate of the task force.

The task force, being developed with the support and participation of the food processing and food service industries, will include representatives from health associations, government, academia, and industry.

Trans fats are found naturally in some animal-based foods, but are also formed when liquid oils are made into semi-solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. Trans fats raise the levels of LDL-cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, in the blood, and also lower the HDL-cholesterol or "good" cholesterol, and thereby increase the risk of heart disease.

"Clearly, heart disease is a major chronic disease in Canada, so we must address its causes and tackle all the relevant determinants," notes Minister Bennett. "Our thoughtful action on the trans fat issue is part of a much broader, complex strategy to foster health through healthy living. Our aim is to promote good health by reducing the risk factors."

"Finding healthy alternatives to fats and oils high in trans fats will require a concerted effort," says Minister Dosanjh. "Through this multi-stakeholder group, Health Canada will help ensure that practical solutions are developed to help Canadians move from trans fats to healthier alternatives."

"The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada is pleased to partner with Health Canada on the search for a timely solution to this critically important cardiovascular health issue facing Canadians," says Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

The task force will build upon findings of a consultation process with scientists and industry already underway by the Heart and Stroke Foundation. It will explore healthy alternatives to fats and oils high in trans fats, examine available regulatory options, and consider ways to educate the public about the dangers of trans fat.

Recommendations regarding public education, labeling and any possible immediate opportunities for the food service and food processing industry to reduce trans fats are expected by Spring 2005. Within one year of this announcement, the task force will provide the Minister with recommendations for both an appropriate regulatory framework and for the introduction and widespread use of healthy alternatives to achieve the objective of limiting trans fat content in foods sold in Canada to the lowest levels possible.

Trans fats, as well as saturated fats which also raise the level of LDL-cholesterol, should be minimized in the diet as much as possible. Health Canada and the Heart and Stroke Foundation advise consumers to choose foods low in both saturated and trans fats.

The formation of a trans fat task force is supported by recommendations from the External Advisory Committee on Smart Regulations which call for the formation of such groups to help lead regulatory reform.