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Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment his Department has made of the effects on human health of hydrogenated fats in processed foods. [111830]

The Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) considered trans ("hydrogenated") fatty acids in the report Nutritional Aspects of Cardiovascular Disease (1994).COMA concluded that trans fatty acids may have undesirable effects on plasma cholesterol and coronary heart disease mortality. COMA therefore recommended that

"on average trans fatty acids should provide no more than the current average of about 2 per cent, of dietary energy and that consideration should be given to ways of decreasing the amount present in the diet."

The forthcoming national diet and nutrition survey of adults will allow an assessment of current intakes of trans fatty acids. In addition, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissions a range of research on fat and its implications for human health, details of which can be found on the FSA website at

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether it is his policy to increase public awareness of the effects of hydrogenated fats on human health. [111831]

The Department of Health and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are engaged with stakeholders in a wide range of activities aimed at promoting a healthy balanced diet, including increasing people's awareness of the overall quantity and balance of different types of fats in the diet. The FSA also produces a consumer leaflet on the place of fats within a healthy diet.There is NHS Plan commitment to work with industry to address the overall balance of the diet, including fat, sugar and salt, working with industry. The Department and the FSA are currently in discussion with the food industry on levels of salt in foods; action on fats and added sugars will follow through 2003–04.Wider initiatives, such as the five-a day programme, reform of the Welfare Food Scheme and various programmes in schools to improve the diets of children are also likely to help reduce intakes of fats, including hydrogenated fats. The forthcoming food and health action plan will pull together all the issues that influence what we eat and will address healthy eating at all stages of the life course. The plan will build on a comprehensive on-going programme of work already underway across Government on healthy eating.