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Health Canada proposes to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) in food

In the past (10-15 years ago) french fries were a major source of trans fats, but now most companies have switched to healthier oils. Nowadays, bakery products are the main source of trans fat in the Canadian diet.

Consuming trans fats increases a person’s risk of heart disease.

In the 1990s, Canadians had one of the highest intakes of trans fats in the world. Although we consume fewer trans fats today, more needs be done to reduce Canadians’ trans fat intake.

That’s why Health Canada is introducing a regulatory proposal to prohibit the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs)—the main source of industrially produced trans fats—in food to help protect the health of all Canadians.

A Notice of Proposal detailing the proposed regulation has been posted online to seek comments from Canadians, including stakeholders.

Comments will be accepted up to June 21, 2017.

Notice of Proposal

Since the early 2000s, Health Canada has pursued a multi-faceted approach aimed at reducing the trans fat intakes of Canadians.

This included:

  • mandatory labelling of trans fats in the Nutrition Facts table
  • the setting of regulatory criteria for the use of “trans fat free” claims, as well as
  • the adoption of voluntary targets for trans fats in processed foods accompanied by a monitoring program
Although this approach has proven successful in reducing trans fat levels in the Canadian food supply, and by extension Canadians’ intakes of trans fat, some foods still contain industrially produced trans fats, namely from partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs).

This can be a health concern for Canadians who choose these foods regularly, and for vulnerable subpopulations that are at risk for higher trans fat intakes, such as children and teens, Canadians in remote areas and price sensitive consumers.

In response to her 2015 Mandate Letter, the Minister of Health launched the Healthy Eating Strategy, which included among its many initiatives, a proposal to prohibit the use of PHOs in foods.

This was followed by a pre-consultation which ended January 13, 2017.

It is the intention of Health Canada to implement this prohibition by adding PHOs to Part 1 of the List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods as described in the information document.

The information document outlines the rationale for the proposed prohibition along with the proposed mechanism and timeline for industry compliance.

It also provides the appropriate contact information for those wishing to submit any feedback or new information for Health Canada’s consideration.

Full notice:

Notice of Proposal: Prohibiting the Use of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHOs) in Foods – Reference Number: NOP/ADP-C-2017-3.
Prohibiting the use of PHOs in all foods sold in Canada represents a significant and final step in Health Canada’s efforts to reduce trans fats in the Canadian food supply to the lowest possible level. This builds on previous measures, which include mandatory nutrition labelling of trans fats and setting voluntary maximum limits for these fats in processed foods.

Once the regulation is finalized, the prohibition would come into effect one year later to provide manufacturers time to reformulate their products.

Eliminating PHOs from the Canadian food supply is an important part of Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians. The Strategy aims to improve the availability of information on healthy eating, strengthen requirements for labelling and health claims, improve the nutritional quality of foods, protect vulnerable populations, and support increased access to and availability of nutritious foods.

The Healthy Eating Strategy is a component of the vision for a healthy Canada, which focuses on healthy eating, healthy living and a healthy mind.

Jane Philpott, Minister of Health:

“Through the Healthy Eating Strategy, our government is working to make the healthier choice the easier choice.”

“By prohibiting partially hydrogenated oils, we are removing the largest source of industrial trans fats from Canada's food supply and helping reduce the risk of heart disease.”