Montreal, March 3, 2016 – With the support of many organizations, the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (the Quebec association for public health, or ASPQ) calls on Canada’s Minister of Health, Jane Philpott, to start working on regulations to eliminate industrial trans fats from our foods.
In his Ministerial Mandate letter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that he expects Minister Philpott to “promote public health by (…) bringing in tougher regulations to eliminate trans fats (…) in processed foods, similar to those in the United States.” In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has already instructed American agri-food industries to eliminate all partially hydrogenated oils (the source of industrial trans fats) from food products by June 2018. Bill Jeffery, from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest, states that “trans fat was responsible for 2,653 deaths in Canada, in 2013, according to the Global Burden of Disease Report”.
On behalf of Dietitians of Canada, Caroline Dubeau, Regional Executive Director for Quebec, commented: “It’s about the health of Canadians; trans fats are damaging people’s health, and there are other products on the market to replace them. Right now, we don’t even know how much trans fat is in grocery products and restaurant foods because Canada stopped monitoring the levels of trans fats over 7 years ago.”
“In a context where the prevalence of obesity and chronic illnesses is critical and expensive for Canada, trans fats are an aggravating factor that we need to reduce,” states Corinne Voyer, director of the Quebec Coalition on Weight-Related Problems. A growing number of citizens are eating out multiple times per week. Considering that serving sizes have also increased and that many meals contain industrial trans fats, there is reason to be concerned about the levels of harmful fats people are ingesting. “Unfortunately, trans fats are prevalent in the foods often consumed by children, such as baked goods.”
Certain municipalities are also urging the government to act. “For many years, we have been asking the government to stop restaurants from using industrial trans fats. As elected municipal representatives, we care about the health of our citizens, and we would like them to have access to a healthy range of food options,” states Marvin Rotrand, Montreal City Councillor for the Snowdon district.
Furthermore, ASPQ’s work in 2015 has allowed us to identify that disclosing the presence of industrial trans fats on food labels aimed at young children aged 6 to 24 months is not mandatory, otherwise deceiving parents about the actual content of what they are feeding their children. “It is completely unacceptable! How can parents make an informed decision if information about trans fats is optional?” worries Lucie Granger, Executive Director of the ASPQ. “Knowing that it will take some time before industrial trans fats are eliminated from our foods altogether, the Canadian government should at least require the agri-food industry to disclose the presence of trans fats on all processed food labels in the meantime,” she adds.
When it comes to consuming trans fats, there are no safe limits. They are harmful for human health and strongly associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. When replaced with higher quality fats, every 2% reduction in calories stemming from trans fats lowers a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease by 21% to 24%.
This matter is urgent and has been ignored for too long. The ASPQ, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Dietitians of Canada and many other organizations urge the government to take action to correct the situation.
About the Association pour la santé publique du Québec (ASPQ)
The ASPQ consists of citizens and partners who are seeking to make sustainable health a priority, namely through prevention.