The World Health Organisation (WHO) has revealed a new plan to eliminate the use of industry produced trans fats within five years.

According to the WHO, the initiative, dubbed REPLACE, would prevent 500,000 deaths per year from cardiovascular disease.

Industrially-produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats but they are bad for consumers, increasing heart disease risk by 21% and deaths by 28%, said the WHO in statement.

The WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply.

“Implementing the six strategic actions in the REPLACE package will help achieve the elimination of trans fat, and represent a major victory in the global fight against cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Ghebreyesus.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

The WHO noted that action is needed in low- and middle-income countries, where controls of use of industrially-produced trans fats are often weaker, to ensure that the benefits are felt equally around the world.

“Trans fat is an unnecessary toxic chemical that kills, and there’s no reason people around the world should continue to be exposed,” said President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies, Dr Tom Frieden.

Elimination of industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply has been identified as one of the priority targets of WHO’s strategic plan, the draft 13th General Programme of Work (GPW13), which will guide the work of the WHO in 2019 – 2023.

“The world is now embarking on the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition, using it as a driver for improved access to healthy food and nutrition. The WHO is also using this milestone to work with governments, the food industry, academia and civil society to make food systems healthier for future generations, including by eliminating industrially-produced trans fats,” concluded Dr Ghebreyesus.

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