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Food and Nutrition

Trans Fat

Fats in foods are made up of 4 different types of fats - polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, saturated and trans. Trans fats are found naturally in some animal-based foods, but are also formed when liquid oils are made into semi-solid fats like shortening and hard margarine. Scientific evidence has shown that dietary saturated and trans fats can increase your risk of developing heart disease. You can reduce this risk by choosing healthier foods that contain little or no trans fat. Check the Nutrition Facts on food labels.

While Canadians have reduced their total fat intake over the last two decades, we are still consuming too much saturated and trans fat.

What's Being Done?

On June 20, 2007, the Minister of Health announced that Health Canada adopted the recommendations of the Trans Fat Task Force with respect to the amount of trans fat in foods. These recommendations from the Trans Fat Task Force were two-fold:

  1. Limit the trans fat content of vegetable oils and soft, spreadable margarines to 2% of the total fat content; and
  2. Limit the trans fat content for all other foods to 5% of the total fat content, including ingredients sold to restaurants.

The Minister called on the food industry to achieve these limits within two years. The Minister also announced that if significant progress has not been made in the next two years, Health Canada will develop regulations to ensure that the recommended levels are met.

In doing so, companies and food manufacturers are encouraged to replace trans fats with healthier alternatives such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and to not replace trans fats with saturated fats.

To ensure that the industry is making progress in meeting the 2% and 5% limits of the total fat, Health Canada will closely monitor the actions of the industry via the Trans Fat Monitoring Program.

Canada is the first country to publish this type of monitoring data.

Trans Fat Monitoring Program

The Trans Fat Monitoring Program has been analyzing a wide variety of foods from restaurants, fast food chains, quick service restaurants, cafeterias located in institutions, establishments serving various ethnic cuisines, as well as pre-packaged foods. The monitoring program also provides nutrition information obtained from the Nutrition Facts table from a number of pre-packaged food labels. The results from the fourth set of monitoring data, dated December 2009, are presented in data tables that include information on the total fat, the trans fat, and the saturated fat levels in foods.

This fourth set of data is the last data set for the two year Trans Fat Monitoring Program announced in June 2007. Health Canada may monitor some food categories in the future. Currently the department is analyzing the impact of the two year monitoring program on the average trans fat intake of Canadians to determine what the best approach would be to reach the targets recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force. Moving forward, Health Canada will continue to engage stakeholders in further discussions.

Other Information on Trans Fats