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Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) War on Trans Fats

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BANGKOK – Thailand’s Consumers have been confused over the issue of trans fats in food products from the time Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced a ban, which takes effect in January next year, on the domestic use and import of partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).

The food industry and importers have been given 180 days from July this year to comply with the order that is aimed at protecting the health of Thai consumers. Scientific evidence has shown that trans fats from PHOs are contributing to increased incidence of heart and related diseases.

Fast-food outlets, bakeries and confectioneries, and items such as snacks, fried food, sweetened milk and non-dairy creamer and derivatives will be affected by the ban on PHOs.

For consumers, the advice is to read food product labels carefully and buy items that have zero trans fats, said Dr Jirada Singkhonrat of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Science and Technology.

Consumers should ensure that they do not consume too much fat on a daily basis, regardless of whether they are good or bad fats.

Food makers, such as bakeries, should turn to indigenous natural oils – such as palm and coconut as well as blended oils – as a substitute for the unhealthy PHOs.

Supattra Boonserm, the chief of the FDA’s Food Bureau, said the enforcement of a trans fats ban will begin from January 9, 2019, allowing food, beverage and related business operators 180 days to adjust to the new rule.

“The FDA will be in charge of enforcing this rule and officials will strictly perform inspection and examination work of production plants, imported cargoes, and markets suspected to have trans fats contaminated food and beverage products,” Supattra said.

“The officers will mainly inspect the suspected food and beverages by considering the documents and certification of the ingredients and production processes, and the officers can collect samples to test for trans fats by laboratory examination, if need be.”

According to the Food Act, those who violate the ban will be punished by six months to two years’ imprisonment and a Bt5,000 to Bt20,000 fine.

She stressed that after the trans fats ban is enforced, the use of partially hydrogenated oils in food in any circumstances is strictly prohibited, including food products from Thailand that are intended for export to countries that have not banned trans fats.

The food producers in the entire supply chain have to certify that their products are entirely free of partially hydrogenated oils, while food product importers and sellers also have to make sure that their products do not contain partially hydrogenated fats as well, she said.

“Nevertheless, the ban does not include the use of fully hydrogenated fat in food and the foods that contain naturally generated trans fats,” Supattra explained.

“Therefore, some food products that naturally contained trans fats such as dairy products from animals and solidified oils by using full hydrogenation, are still legal to produce, import, and sell in the Kingdom.”

According to Big C Supercenter, owned by Berli Jucker Pcl, all bakery products such as croissants, sandwiches, and pies as well as their ingredients sold at its supermarkets will not be of industrial trans fat banned by the Thai FDA so they will be safe for customers.

Other products such as dairy and yogurt products, snacks, and beverages are also free of trans fat.

Dr Jirada of Thammasat University also cautioned that Thai consumers should beware of imported food items, especially after the US FDA imposed its own ban on the use of trans fat from PHOs in food items produced in the US in June this year.

However, the US FDA continued to allow US food manufacturers to continue to sell the products produced prior to the June 18, 2018 cut-off date until January 1, 2020.

As a result, some of these food items could be exported to other countries, including Thailand.

According to the US FDA, most trans fat is formed though a production process in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil. This hydrogenation process changes the liquid into a solid at room temperature, even though trans fat also occurs naturally as in cow milk and cheese, but the amount is much smaller.

Scientific evidence shows that eating trans fat from PHOs raises the level of LDL or bad cholesterol in the blood, contributing to the risk of heart and other related ailments. As a result, removing PHOs from processed food items could help prevent deaths from heart attacks and related ailments.

Source: The Nation