Debate on ministries’ budgets: Health

Trans fat: Partially hydrogenated oils to be banned

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

Fats and oils on sale in Singapore are today 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.

But the World Health Organisation says trans fat increases the risk of heart disease, and has called for countries to remove it from the food supply.

Announcing the proposed ban, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin said the move "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.

There are four categories of food products which may contain PHOs: snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads. It is estimated that less than 10 per cent of such products on sale here contain PHOs.

Those that do include packaged food, like noodles and cookies.

Mr Amrin said his ministry has consulted the local food industry, which is supportive. It will also give them time to make adjustments. Countries like the United States, Canada and Thailand have banned PHOs.

Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian from Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants, said 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.


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"While trans fat is naturally occurring in very small amounts of animal and dairy foods, the majority of the trans fat we consume is from commercial products," she said. "The alternative could be saturated fats such as butter, and other vegetable oils high in saturated fats such as palm oil or palm kernel oil."

She 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 has 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.

Felicia Choo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Trans fat: Partially hydrogenated oils to be banned'. Print Edition | Subscribe