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Ottawa to stop monitoring trans fats

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Ottawa to stop monitoring trans fats

By Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News July 20, 2012

OTTAWA – Health Canada has rejected the advice of its own advisory panel of food experts to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a “strong signal” to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don’t drop.

The department’s food expert advisory committee made the recommendations in June 2011 after Health Canada asked its external advisers on food policy about how best to manage trans-fat levels in the Canadian food supply.

At the time, departmental officials were revisiting the issue of trans fats after Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quietly killed a plan drafted in December 2009 to bring in regulations to limit trans-fat levels in processed foods.

Aglukkaq made the decision even though senior officials had briefed her on a cost-benefit analysis commissioned by Health Canada showing a “significant net benefit to Canadian society” of up to $9 billion over 20 years if trans-fat caps were imposed.

In 2007 Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Tony Clement, had vowed to bring in regulations if the department’s voluntary approach didn’t get the job done. Clement gave the industry two years to meet targets established by the government’s trans fat task force, which were set at no more than two per cent trans fat in the fat content of vegetable oils and spreadable margarine and five per cent in all other foods.

Data from the department’s monitoring program, published at Health Canada’s website during the reporting period of December 2007 to December 2009, showed many products in key categories, such as pre-packaged baked goods, had failed to meet the targets.

Internal records, released to Postmedia News under access to information, show a sample plan was in the works in January 2012 to press ahead with the committee recommendation to reinstate a targeted trans fat monitoring and reporting program.

Aglukkaq’s office confirmed Thursday the plan is not moving forward, calling the monitoring program “a time-limited initiative that ran its course.”

An internal summary of committee business shows that members flagged many benefits or “payoffs” to their recommended approach to reinstate a two-year monitoring program. They included collecting update data, emphasizing a “shared onus on industry and consumer,” targeting “attention to challenged sectors” and allowing for the drafting of regulations in the intervening two years “that will be promulgated if targets are not.”

William Yan, director of Health Canada’s bureau of nutritional sciences, also conceded at the June 2011 meeting of the Food Expert Advisory Committee that while some progress had been made through a voluntary approach, “critical gaps in industry take-up remain” and “further reductions are needed to meet public health goals.”

Yan also noted that “updated data would likely be needed for any option, regulatory or non-regulatory. He added that there is always the challenge of waiting too long without taking the next step,” the internal summary states.

He was responding to a comment by a committee member, who argued that updated epidemiological and compliance data “would be needed to support regulatory compliance.”

Trans fats, created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at an elevated temperature, raise the levels of low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol in the body and can lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.

The latest development on the trans fat file comes after Aglukkaq prematurely disbanded her much-touted expert panel on sodium in December 2010. The Sodium Working Group was created in 2007 and had unveiled a plan in July 2010 to track, over the next five years, whether companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods.

And last fall, Aglukkaq withdraw her support for a joint federal-provincial sodium-reduction plan, modelled on a key recommendation of the Sodium Working Group, to set up a monitoring system to track industry progress.

She objected to the idea of outing food companies for failing to meet specific targets.

After the Sodium Working Group was disbanded, Health Canada said it would rely on the Food Expert Advisory Committee for advice on the government’s sodium-reduction plans.

© Copyright © The Montreal Gazette

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/Ottawa+stop+monitoring+trans+fats/6964815/story.html#ixzz21NhdbtYn

Now I'm no nutrition specialist, but aren't trans fats kind of bad when utilized in food processing?

And remember this from a few months ago?

Canada Budget 2012: CFIA Cuts Mean Food Labelling Lies Will Have To Be Policed By Consumer

I guess now companies will be able to claim low trans fat content without actually having low trans fat content, and if we don't like it we can take it up with the corporations. Oh, and don't worry about those 9 billion, we can afford it...

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