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Sweden's parliament passes trans fat ban

Sweden's parliament passes trans fat ban

Published: 17 Mar 2011 17:17 GMT+01:00
Updated: 17 Mar 2011 17:17 GMT+01:00

The Riksdag on Thursday ordered the Swedish government to develop legislation for prohibit the use of potentially dangerous unsaturated fats in food products in Sweden, something previously left to the food industry.

"This is a gratifying decision that the Riksdag has taken today," Green Party public health spokesperson Gunvor G Ericson said in a statement.

"I've been working for the regulation of industrial created trans fats in food products. The industry has voluntarily worked to bring down the amounts of trans fats and that's good. But now we'll get rules that apply to all products."

Trans fat, or unsaturated fat, is a by-product of partially hydrogenating unsaturated plant fats, which are generally vegetable oils.

The largest amount of unsaturated fat consumed today is found in processed food products, such as ready meals, biscuits, potato chips, ready made sauces and margarine.

Although medical studies from 2008 show that there may be a link between a high intake of trans fats and certain forms of cancer, it has also been suggested that the risk of developing allergies and type 2 diabetes may increased on a diet rich in unsaturated fats.

However, the research into these links is not conclusive, according to Sweden's National Food Administration (Livsmedelsverket).

Denmark decided in 2004 to limit the allowed levels to two percent in fats and oils destined for human consumption.

So far, Sweden has left it to the food industry to self regulate in cooperation with the National Food Administration.

But many are of the opinion that this is not enough.

"The dangers of trans fats are too great to leave to the food industry to control," Social Democrat MP Lena Hallengren said to Swedish newspaper Barometern ahead of the vote.

"We have seen that the food industry isn’t handling this. They have had every chance, but not enough has happened."

According to the National Food Administration website, the amount of trans fats consumed in Sweden has decreased since the 1990’s – leaving Swedes consuming approximately the same amount of unsaturated fats today as the regulated Danes.

The four parties of the governing centre-right Alliance have so far been against the ban of unsaturated fats in Sweden.

Although both sides are in agreement that the use of trans fats must be limited they disagree on how to reach that goal.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, Moderate MP Jan R Andersson argued that a complete ban on trans fats was unnecessary.

“We have come just as far as many other countries without having to ban it. This is a question of choice. Sweden has chosen self regulation and so far it has worked,” he said to Barometern.

As a part of Thursday's decision, the Riksdag now wants the government to develop a law prohibiting trans fats in food products in Sweden.

The decision was based on two motions, one submitted by the Green Party and one by the Social Democrats.

The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

22:07 March 17, 2011 by expatjourno
Oh, for goodness sakes. There go the lantchips. Guess I'm going to have to stock up.
23:26 March 17, 2011 by Nemesis
Long overdue.

That ranks with banning slavery. Sorry forgot, you still have praktik, so Sweden is still a white slavery country.

End transfats now.

We should have free range meat and naturally grown vegatables.

We are Europeans.

We have no need for imported bad for the health, fast foods.
03:10 March 18, 2011 by Swedesmith
As much as I am not for a multitude of government regulations on every aspect of our lives, I think this would be a good idea. Trans fat is unnatural and wreaks havoc on a person's arteries. It is in lots of foods that you would never suspect unless you are a careful reader of labels.
10:47 March 18, 2011 by johnny1939
About Time! I would also welcome cutting down on salt in processed food. We really use so much salt in Swedish cooking too. It is not necessary and for people that love it, there is always the salt shaker. I am thinking about food in restaurants that is drenched w/ it. I would really like to see calorie and salt contents stated on the menu. Yes, I know, most of you will not agree hehe
16:17 March 18, 2011 by tadchem
Once upon a time all fats in the diet were good, because it gives you an extra edge against starvation.

Then when agriculture became mechanized saturated fats became 'evil' because they make you fat, and everybody wanted unsaturated fats becaues it was 'healthier' for the blood vessels.

Today 'trans' fats are evil, and the government believes the scanty studies that show it 'contributes' to obesity, so it has a 'right' in the name of public health to monitor your larder and punish you for eating the wrong foods.

In a few decades the food fads will change again, but the food Fascists will continue to enforce outdated laws because that is how they exercise their power.

There will NEVER be sound scientific data on the health effects of foods or substances on foods because experimentation on human subjects is not permitted, and because even if experiments were permitted, there is a LOT if individual variation in human biochemistry.
20:59 March 18, 2011 by mkvgtired
@nemesis, did you really just compare banning unhealthy fats to banning the practice of owning another human being? You say you are "Europeans" but NYC and other places banned this fat long ago. I guess you are behind the curve.

I think this is absolutely ridiculous. Trans-fat is not banned where I live, but guess what, I know its bad for me so I dont eat it. Why is this concept so difficult for some people to understand? I agree with a ban on purchasing unhealthy food with "food stamps" (government aid for food), but other than that people should be able to buy what they want. We can agree that cigarettes are far more unhealthy and they are not banned. Why is this the case? Ban them too. And along those lines, ban alcohol, definitely not good for you. Fried foods are bad, or maybe ban any oil used for frying.

At some point people need to take personal responsibility. The content of food is printed on the package, it is not a big secret what is in it. No one is forcing these things down anyone's throat. If it is unhealthy dont eat it (smoke it, etc.), or in the case of alcohol or a few other things consume them in moderation. People need to put down the crappy food of all kinds, get off thier fat asses and get some exercise. If they dont then there are health consequences that they will have to deal with. Its not rocket science guys.
21:04 March 18, 2011 by Swedesmith
I agree with you to a point mkv, but when you go out to eat, you don't have access to the ingredients. Also, children eat a lot of the foods that are loaded with trans fats and will pay the price down the road...as will we in health care costs.

So, I agree with this ban.
00:45 March 19, 2011 by waffen
One of the best laws that Sweden can pass in a decade.

Nemesis is also exactly right, otherwise Sweden will begin to resemble the one third obese and one third overweight of the United States.

Their health insurnace companies have made hundreds of billions of dollars on the fat of their citzens, that is, those who can afford the American health insurance.
03:04 March 19, 2011 by mkvgtired
@swedesmith, I would completely agree with a "notice" if you will being put on a menu saying "this product contains trans fat" or something along those lines. I also agree with the push to have nutritionists designing school lunch programs. Kids are not mature enough to make healthy decisions. I think we can all agree there.

@waffen, many of the chronically obese are low income in the US. There is a push to ban the ability to use government aid to buy high fat, high sugar junk food. There is a huge uproar from the obese welfare recipients claiming that is infringing on their "rights". The way I see it, if you pay zero taxes at only receive benefits provided by taxpayers, the taxpayers have the right to impose restrictions on how that money is spent. And many of these low income individuals are on Medicaid, a health insurance program for low income people, so the taxpayers are on the hook for much of the "billions of dollars" you speak of.

I remember reading an article on how Sweden may begin to impose a smoking surcharge for smokers using public health care. I completely agree with this. The same goes for obese people (excluding those that are obese for medical reasons obviously). Whether it is through taxes or higher health care premiums, it is unfair to burden everyone for poor decisions of a group of individuals. Imposing some of the real cost of a person's poor decisions on them is a good way to encourage them to make the right one. If they still do not want to then they have to pay the financial and health costs.

I think that is better than banning every individual thing that is unhealthy. It is a very slippery slope when any government begins banning things "for the greater good"
09:00 March 19, 2011 by Russ Cobleigh
I am an American living in Sweden and I totally agree. We do not need all the fast food places that they have back in the states. And if we have them, then they should be regulated so they are safe for us and our children. I applaud this decision.
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