M&S bans man-made fats from foods as health fears increase

Discussion in 'Food and nutrition' started by TC, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. TC

    TC Guest


    M&S bans man-made fats from foods as health fears increase

    MARKS & SPENCER is to become the first big retailer to ban man-made
    fats from its foods, pledging to remove them by April, write Jonathan
    Leake and John Elliott.
    The move follows concern about the substances - known as hydrogenated
    vegetable fats - which have been linked with heart disease, narrowing
    of blood vessels and diabetes.

    Hydrogenated fats are believed to pose a significantly higher health
    risk than naturally occurring fats.

    In Britain, the fats are widely used in biscuits, cakes, pastry,
    margarine and ready meals. The fast-food industry also makes wide use
    of hydrogenated oils for frying. There is no obligation to declare the
    fats on labels.

    In America, many food companies have announced they are to stop using
    such fats. The US government has ordered companies to detail such fats
    on food packaging.

    The Food Standards Agency in Britain is considering a similar move,
    informing food manufacturers and retailers that they may soon be
    required to label all foods containing the fats.

    The agency said: "These fats can raise blood cholesterol levels and
    increase the risk of coronary heart disease."

    Of the 5,000 food lines sold by Marks & Spencer, 1,200 were, until
    recently, made with hydrogenated vegetable fats. By the end of this
    month, that should have been cut to about 700.

    Guy Farrant, director of food at Marks & Spencer, said: "We have
    removed hydrogenated vegetable fats from our ready meals and we are now
    working to remove them from all our food products by mid-2006."

    The fats are made by heating natural fats such as soya or palm oil to
    more than 250C and then bubbling hydrogen through them.

    This turns the oil from a liquid to a dense waxy tasteless solid that
    improves texture, binds food particles together and prolongs food's
    shelf life.

    However, research has shown that hydrogenated fats shorten human life.
    The main problem lies with a sub-set of fats formed during
    hydrogenation known as trans fats.

    Studies link these fats with raised cholesterol and narrowing of blood
    vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. They also make
    the body resistant to insulin, raising the risk of diabetes.

    Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, London, welcomed
    Marks & Spencer's decision. He said: "Why has it taken so long?
    Hydrogenated vegetable fats are uniquely bad for consumers in every

    Tesco and Waitrose have also promised to cut the use of such fats in
    own-brand food.

    Jane Landon, associate director of the National Heart Forum, said the
    key question was what Marks & Spencer would use instead. She said:
    "They need to avoid replacing them with other forms of harmful