On 15 May 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply and released draft guidelines on saturated fatty acid and trans-fatty acid intake for adults and children. The draft guidelines suggest that adults and children reduce their intake of saturated fatty acids to less than 10% of total energy intake and their intake of trans-fatty acids to less than 1% of total energy intake. They recommend using polyunsaturated fatty acids as a source of replacement energy, if needed, with the objective to reduce the risk of noncommunicable diseases (NCD’s) in adults and children.

In a British Medical Journal article, published July 3, 2019 the researchers said that the recommendations “fail to take into account considerable evidence that the health effects of saturated fat varies depending on the specific fatty acid and on the specific food source” and called on WHO to take a different approach with respect to its recommendations.

The researchers suggest that since not all saturated fatty acids are equal and that the food matrix in which they exist is an important factor in determining their effect on cardiovascular disease, “maintaining general advice to reduce total saturated fatty acids will work against the intentions of the guidelines and weaken their effect on chronic disease incidence and mortality.

Noting that WHO guidelines have potential health implications for billions of people, the researchers stress that the guidelines on saturated fat “should consider different types of fatty acids and, more importantly, the diversity of foods containing saturated fatty acids that might be harmful, neutral, or even beneficial in relation to major health outcomes.

The finalized version of the guidance is about to be published in the coming weeks.

At the EU level, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in June 2018 that the intake of trans fats should be as low as possible while eating a healthy diet. On April 24, 2019, the European Commission adopted a regulation to curb trans-fat amounts in products like snack food as part of efforts to fight heart disease and strokes in Europe. As of now the next benchmark for industry to take note is April 2, 2021, when the content of trans fat in a product, other than trans fat naturally occurring in fat of animal origin, in food intended for the final consumer and food intended for supply to retail, shall not exceed 2 grams per 100 grams of fat.