The Jordan Food and Drug Administration’s (JFDA) plans will block all partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in dairy products including imported produce with full compliance needed by 1st January 2017.
For exporters: “If the label or ingredients have any percentage of vegetable oil, Jordanian customs authorities will potentially reject the shipment,” the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) warned.
Jordan Standards and Metrology Organisation (JSMO) director general Haydar Zaben said the decision is down to the fact: “[Hydrogenated oils] have serious side effects on veins and arteries.”
The ban falls in line with the World Health Organisation’s stance on PHOs. It says the removal of these oils – as the leading source of trans-fats – from the entire food supply chain would mean big health benefits.
Other recent research backs a total ban in trans-fats, with one claiming it could prevent 7,200 deaths from heart disease in England alone.
“Removing trans fats from the food supply is one of the most straightforward public health interventions for reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, and improving diet,” said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe.
Jordan’s PHO blockade applies only to dairy, however, as a staple of the Jordanian diet. It means PHOs can still be used in chips, chocolate and other products.
The end of year timeline in Jordan is softened from the JFDA’s original plan to block all PHO-containing dairy import on May 2nd of this year.
Importers were “fiercely opposed” because of contractual obligations with foreign suppliers, the USDA noted, resulting in the JFDA extending its deadline.
The end of year deadline applies to both imported and locally manufactured products.
The USDA has already responded by telling US exporters to label their dairy products as containing ‘no trans-fats’. The European Commission’s Agriculture and Rural Development department does not list a response on its website.
Despite relaxing the compliance deadline, Jordan’s ban for dairy issues harsher timeline than others like the US FDA, which released a 2015 statement that PHOs are no longer generally recognised as safe with a request for food manufacturers to remove them from products by 2018.
There is no EU-wide legislation regulating the content of trans-fats in food products or requiring their labelling.
“Should a product contain partially hydrogenated oils (and hence, possibly trans-fatty acids), its label will indicate this, but it will not indicate the exact amount of trans fats present,” according to a recent European Parliament briefing.
However, it looks like EU trans-fat limits could be impending, with a December 2015 Commission report which said a legal limit for trans-fatty acid content is a good idea.
Several European countries – most notably Denmark – have already taken it upon themselves to reduce trans-fatty acids by issuing limits on the amounts in oils and fats intended for human consumption. In Denmark, trans-fat content may not exceed two grams per 100g of oil or fat since 2003.
“A recent study confirmed that Danish cardiovascular mortality has decreased faster than it would have done hypothetically, following the trend in other OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, without the ban,” the EU Parliament notes.
“The ban did not cause a significant rise in prices, nor did it affect the availability of food products.”
Between 2008 – 2014, Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Hungary and Norway have also set the two grams per 100g limit on trans-fats in food. Germany, the Netherlands and the UK have also made voluntary agreements with the food industry to reduce levels.