Food firms cut harmful fatsTrans fats being reduced in hundreds of brands

17 October 2006

Around £1.5 billion worth of foods are being reformulated to remove dangerous trans fats, the food industry has confirmed.

Which? has repeatedly called on the industry to axe trans fats following scientific warnings which linked them to increased cholesterol levels and a greater risk of heart disease.

Now the Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents manufacturers, has confirmed that hundreds of well-known brands are being reformulated to reduce or eliminate trans fats. These include foods such as Horlicks, Mars bars, Hob Nob biscuits and Weetabix cereal.

Major manufacturers

The FDF polled 20 top food and drink manufacturers asking about their position on trans fats; 11 companies replied with details while the other nine either had no trans fats in their products or did not release details.

Cadbury’s said it was actively removing hydrogenated fats and reducing trans fats to less than 0.5g per single serving while GlaxoSmithKline said it planned to reduce significantly or eradicate trans fats from Horlicks by 2007.

Nestlé UK says it has a reformulation policy across its 66 product groups to ‘reduce and, where feasible, remove' trans fats from its recipes.

Industry commitment

FDF Communications Director Julian Hunt said: ‘Many companies through reformulating their products have managed to dramatically reduce the levels over the past two years. This is fully in line with manufacturers’ commitment through FDF’s Food and Health Manifesto to reduce levels of fats.’

Trans fats occur naturally in small amounts in dairy products and meat, but they're also formed artificially when manufacturers hydrogenate liquid vegetable fat or oil. Hydrogenation turns the fat solid, altering the texture of food, and also extends a food's shelf life.

Marks & Spencer has already stopped using hydrogenated vegetable fats - which can contain trans fats - in its food production.

Tesco says it is 'working hard' to remove hydrogenated fat from its own-brand products by the end of this year while Sainsbury's will have phased out trans fats from all 15,000 own-brand lines by the start of January.

Slow progress

Which? Principal Researcher Julie Lennard said: ‘It's good news that food manufacturers are working to reduce trans fats but progress has been slow. In the meantime, we'd like to see trans fat content to be labelled as it currently isn't labelled.'

She added: 'At the moment our advice is for consumers to look out for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fat on labels as this is the only indication that the product might contain trans fats.