Consider ban on trans fats

THE United States Food and Drug Administration is banning trans fats, declaring them unfit for human consumption ("US bans 'unsafe' trans fats in food"; yesterday).

The World Health Organisation has long called for banning what are proven heart disease-causing "industrial chemicals", and several European countries have already done so.

Trans fats are margarines, shortenings, and other such hydrogenated fats and oils, invented more than a century ago, that food manufacturers have used because they are cheap and help keep products on store shelves for years.

Consumers find these chemicals today in many types of confectionery, snack foods, coffee creamers, and even frozen desserts. Unfortunately, they are still widely used in restaurants and other food outlets, and especially in fried foods.

In moderation, natural, unprocessed fats and oils (for example, sunflower, safflower, olive, grape seed, and corn oils) are much safer. Fish oils (found in baked, poached or grilled salmon and mackerel, for example) are fabulous. Even butter is now understood to be safer than trans fats.

I am concerned that food manufacturers will naturally start to "dump" unsaleable, unhealthy trans fat-based products in Singapore and elsewhere.

Given the US action, will Singapore's regulators now act quickly to upgrade our mild limits on trans fats to an outright ban?

Timothy Sipples

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2015, with the headline 'Consider ban on trans fats'. Print Edition | Subscribe