ANVISA experts unanimously agreed on the proposed resolution at a meeting of the collegiate board this week (17 July) in Brasilia.
The ban will be rolled out in three phases. The first will limit the presence of trans fats in refined oils to 2% by July 1, 2021, giving food producers around 18 months to comply.
The second stage expands this 2% limit to all other packaged products destined for the final consumer and those used in foodservice. Manufacturers have between July 2021 and January 2023 to comply. Products that are destined exclusively for industrial processing are exempt from this limit if they provide the relevant accompanying documents.
Finally, partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrial trans fats in foods, will be banned from January 1, 2023.
To read the resolution, click here (in Portuguese).
Industrial trans fats are defined as those produced by partial hydrogenation, heat treatment or alkaline isomerization.
The regulatory agency said the measure was intended to reduce trans fats intake to less than 1% of the total energy value of the diet.
'A big step for Brazil'
Nutritionist and project coordinator at ASBRAN, the Brazilian association of nutritionists Dr Ana Flavia Rezende welcomed the measure describing it as a big step for Brazil. She called for manufacturers to opt for “reliable sources” when replacing industrial trans fats in food.
Partially hydrogenated oils are favored by food manufacturers as they increase crispiness, extend the shelf-life of processed food products, and are flavor stable.
However, their negative impact on heart health has been known for years. A diet high in trans fats is strongly associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and related mortality. Globally, the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) estimates that over half a million deaths each year are due to industrial trans fats, and 160,000 in Latin America.
Latin Americans are also eating increasing amounts of ‘ultra-processed’ food – sales of such products in the region increased by 26.7% between 2000 and 2013, according to PAHO – and the associated health problems have also risen.
Daniel Balaban, director of the World Food Program (WFP) Brazil, said “Brazil is taking an extremely important step towards improving food nutrition which, as a result, will improve the health of the population."
Almost 20% of products contain trans fats
Brazilian consumer rights organization, IDEC, welcomed the announcement but regretted the deadline for implementation of the ban was not shorter.
This was particularly important because the front-of-pack nutrition label that will be rolled out in Brazil provides information on sugar, salt and saturated fat content but not on trans fats, it said.
Under current legislation in Brazil, if a product contains 0.2 grams of trans fat per serving of food or less, manufacturers can write 0 g in the nutrition table and claim the product is trans fat-free.
A study published earlier this year found that nearly 20% (18.7%) of over 11,000 products surveyed contained a source of trans fats in the ingredient list even though most failed to report this on the nutrition facts panel.
The highest percentage of trans fats claims were found in bakery products, cookies and crackers, candies and desserts, snacks, and convenience foods.