Instead of going totally trans-fat free, Singapore will introduce laws to severely limit the use of artery-clogging trans fats in food served at restaurants and manufactured food products.
The amendments, which will be introduced in May, will:
a) Limit trans fat to no more than 2g per 100g product for fats and oils supplied to food service establishments and food manufacturers, as well as fats and oils sold in retail outlets
b) Require mandatory labelling of trans-fat levels on packaging of retail fats and oils.
Trans fats or trans fatty acids are manufactured fats created during a process of hydrogenation. They are found in fried foods, commercial baked products, processed foods and margarine
A Government statement today said the industry will be given one year (until 2 May 2013) to comply with the new requirements, after which the law will be enforced.
The new measures were also revealed in Parliament today by the Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor.
Dangers of trans fats
In the last decade, the World Health Organisation and health experts around the globe had alerted that the consumption of trans fats increases the risk of heart disease, which is a top killer in Singapore.
In Singapore, a survey alarmingly found that three in 10 adults exceeded the World Health Organisation's recommended daily limit of trans-fat intake. About two-thirds of these people are younger adults under the age of 40.
It's so easy to consume trans-fat products as they are found everywhere.
Among the worst offenders are margarine, chips, crackers, breakfast food like donuts, muffins and pancakes, cakes, pies, cookies, and food fried in partially hydrogenated oils at food outlets.
The health authorities has been working the ground to ensure that there are viable alternatives for the industry to make the switch.
The Health Promotion Board and AVA also worked with industry to help them reformulate their products.
WHO described trans fat as an "industrial additive" with "no demonstrable health benefits and clear risks to human health".
A recent meta-analysis concluded that a 4g increase in daily trans-fat intake was associated with a 23 per cent jump in the incidence of coronary heart disease.
Making the transition
Together with HPB, the Ministry of Health has been monitoring the ways other countries curb the use of trans fats and studying whether the voluntary or legislation approach would be more effective.
Since 2004, HPB has actively engaged local food manufacturers to reduce trans fats in their products, and to promote voluntary labelling.
HPB launched a nationwide public education initiative in 2007 on the harmful effects of trans fats on health. It is continuing to spread the message at outreach events and on HPB's website.
In 2009, the "Trans Fat Free" symbol was introduced under the enhanced version of the Healthier Choice Symbol Programme. Foods carrying "Trans Fat Free" logo contain no or negligible amounts of trans-fat, that is, less than 0.5g per 100g of the product.
With the amendments of the Food Regulations, HPB will monitor the trans-fat content of fat and oil products sold in retail outlets, including the trans fat level of fats and oils used in eateries and other food establishments.