World Health Organization Seeks to Eradicate Artificial Trans Fats by 2023

The new initiative is the first time WHO will support countries in eliminating a chronic disease.

May 22, 2018

WASHINGTON – The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes to eliminate artificial trans fats from the global food supply by 2023. An initiative called REPLACE features a step-by-step strategy and will provide guidance for all countries to eradicate trans fatty acids.

REPLACE stands for review dietary sources, promote use of healthier fats, legislate, assess changes, create awareness and enforce. It’s the first time the WHO is advocating for a lifestyle factor driving non-communicable disease, or chronic disease.

Artificial trans fats are used in fried foods, snacks and baked goods, including vegetable shortening, stick margarine, coffee creamer and ready-to-use frostings. Harmful health effects from these products include raising cholesterol and increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Partnerships in this initiative include Resolve to Save Lives, a part of nonprofit Vital Strategies. The president and CEO of the public health initiative served as New York City’s health commissioner from 2002-2009 where he led efforts to remove artificial trans fats from New York restaurants.

In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration stated that food companies had three years to cut artificial trans fats, after determining that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association stated that "food and beverage companies have worked diligently and successfully to reduce the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), and these actions have reduced PHO-related trans-fat use by close to 98%.” The association "filed a food additive petition in October 2015 that seeks FDA approval for specific, limited uses of PHOs that are both safe and important for the production of safe food products. The FDA continues to review GMA's food additive petition," the statement said.

"It is important to remember that, even with the actions by FDA and announcement by WHO, there will always be naturally occurring trans-fat in the diets that include meat and dairy products such as milk, butter and yogurt."