Wiping Out Trans Fats

May 16, 2018
Kio Herrera with reporting from TIME and AP
The World Health Organization is calling on nations to ban artificial trans fats within the next five years.
BRIAN STABLYK—GETTY IMAGES

On Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced a plan to rid the world’s food supply of trans fats. These unhealthy substances have been linked to chronic illness. The WHO is a United Nations agency that works to promote good health around the world. Its plan is called REPLACE. The step-by-step guide is designed to help world governments eliminate trans fats from their countries’ foods within the next five years.

Trans fats are found in cooking products like margarine. They are used in baked goods and fried foods. Food companies use trans fats to preserve foods for longer periods of time. But the additives can be deadly. WHO estimates that eating foods with trans fats leads to more than 500,000 deaths from heart disease every year. “Trans fats are a harmful compound. [They] can be removed easily without major cost and without any impact on the quality of the foods,” said Dr. Francesco Branca. He is the director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development.

Many countries have already banned trans fats. Denmark was the first to do so, 15 years ago. The United States and 40 other countries soon followed. The WHO is hoping REPLACE can help more countries do the same. “Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods?” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked in a press release. He is the WHO’s director-general. He said that with the cooperation of governments and food companies, the plan could “make food systems healthier for future generations.”