Romania attempts to limit trans-fats in food

Romanian Parliament is preparing a legal initiative meant to reduce the use of trans fats in food products.

Romania’s Senate passed a draft law stipulating that food producers need to limit the content of trans-unsaturated fatty acids (t-FA) to 2 grams per 100 grams of oil or fat contents. Food producers also need to label the products containing t-FA with information about their content per 100 grams in oil or fat in the finished product.

Trans-unsaturated fatty acids occur in small amounts in nature, but became widely produced industrially from vegetable fats for use in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food starting the 1950s. In high amounts, they have been linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease.

Final decision

The Senate passed the bill, an initiative of the Save Romanian Union (USR), with 92 votes in favor, Mediafax reported. The final decision on the draft law will be taken by the Chamber of Deputies.

According to the same draft law, in the t-FA free products, the t-FA content should not exceed 0.5 grams per 100 grams of oil or fat in the finished products. The implementation of the law should start within one year from it taking effect while the labeling is compulsory within six months of the law’s passing.

High t-FA content

Some of the products with high t-FA content are microwave popcorn, spreads, biscuits, margarine, pre-packaged sweets, packaged soups, sauces, pre-packaged cereals, wafers, or chips. According to USR senator Adrian Wiener, the initiator of the draft law, who is also a doctor, the products sold in SEE markets have a high t-FA content, of even up to 40 – 50%.

“The main effect of the law will be a decrease of the cardio-vascular mortality in Romania. […] We are talking about 2,500 to 3,000 lives yearly,” Weiner said. “The caloric intake of more than 2% coming from t-FA increases the risk of death by cardio-vascular disease by 20 – 32%, more than any other macro-nutrient. At the same time, t-FA increases the risk of a vascular cerebral stroke, diabetes, obesity, neoplasia and Alzheimer,” according to the draft law’s motivation.

First intervention

If the law passes the Chamber of Deputies, it would be the first significant intervention on this segment. In 2012, Romania discussed the introduction of a fast food tax but the project didn’t go through.

The European Parliament called for mandatory limits on industrially-produced trans-fatty acids at the end of 2016. Denmark was the first EU member state to limit the content of trans fats in oils and fats to 2% by law in 2003. Similar legal limits have since been introduced in Austria (2009), Hungary (2013) and Latvia (2015). Voluntary measures to reduce t-FA content are in place in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and Greece.

Source: 11 Oct 2017