WHO’s new laboratory protocol entitled “Global protocol for measuring fatty acid profiles of foods, with emphasis on monitoring trans-fatty acids originating from partially hydrogenated oils” provides a globally harmonized method to measure trans fats in foods. It will enable countries to assess the levels of trans-fatty acids (TFA) in their food supply to understand key sources of TFA in their diet as well as to monitor the compliance or effectiveness of the policy implemented to eliminate industrially produced TFA.
Increased TFA intake (>1% of total energy intake) is associated with coronary heart disease events and mortality. Industrially produced TFA is used in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks, and certain cooking oils and fats that are used at home, in restaurants or in street food.
Elimination of industrially produced TFA from the global food supply by 2023 is a key target of the WHO’s 13th General Programme of Work (2019 – 2023). Since the launch of the REPLACE action framework in May 2018, WHO has been supporting countries to take actions to eliminate industrially produced TFA from their national food supply.
It is important for countries to be able to collect data on TFA levels in foods so that they can inform policy decisions, monitor changes over time and track compliance with national policies. The protocol is the first globally-harmonized laboratory protocol and can be adapted for measuring TFA levels in national food supplies in a range of settings.
In the coming year, WHO hopes to conduct training workshops using the new laboratory protocol, and target regions and countries to develop laboratory capacities as part of the efforts to strengthen national regulatory capacities to accelerate actions in eliminating industrially produced TFA.