MOH to ban artificial trans fat in cookies and noodles

Four categories of food products may contain partially hydrogenated oils: snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads. Mr Amrin Amin said the ban "should not have an adverse effect on Singaporeans' food options and cost". PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - To cut the risk of cardiovascular disease, the Ministry of Health is planning an outright ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) which are a key source of artificial trans fat.

Fats and oils on sale in Singapore are currently allowed to contain up to 2 per cent of trans fat, under a limit set in 2013. This has helped to reduce Singaporeans' average daily trans fat intake from 2.1g in 2010 to 1g last year.

The new ban will also apply to packaged food, like noodles and cookies.

Announcing the plans on Wednesday (March 6), Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health, said the ban "should not have an adverse effect on Singaporeans' food options and cost" adding that artificial trans fat is harmful and has no known health benefits.

A Ministry of Health (MOH) spokesman said there are four categories of food products which may contain PHOs. These are snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads.

It is estimated that less than 10 per cent of such products on sale here currently contain PHOs.

Trans fat raises bad (LDL) cholesterol and decreases good (HDL) cholesterol, and repeatedly exceeding the daily limit - 1 per cent of the total calories consumed in a day - will increase one's risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes, said Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian from Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.

"While trans fat is naturally occurring in very small amounts of animal and dairy foods, the majority of the trans fat we consume are from commercial products," she added.

"The alternative (to trans fat) could be saturated fats such as butter, and other vegetable oils high in saturated fats such as palm oil or palm kernel oil. Saturated fat also increases the bad (LDL) cholesterol, as like trans fat, but it does not reduce the good (HDL) cholesterol. So, take that as the lesser of two evils."

Ms Reutens noted that while many food manufacturers are already producing foods with little to no trans fat, there is a loophole in labelling - if a product contains less than 0.5g of trans fat per 100g, it can be labelled as trans fat free.

She suggested reducing this limit to less than 0.1g of trans fat per 100g.

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