Philippines trans-fat ban: Policy chiefs issue new guidelines and ban on-pack claims ahead of 2023 changes

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

Companies which fail to adhere to the new rules will have their products banned from the shelves and be at risk of further penalties. GettyImages
Companies which fail to adhere to the new rules will have their products banned from the shelves and be at risk of further penalties. GettyImages

Related tags: Trans fats, PHOs

Policy chiefs in the Philippines have circulated guidelines for food firms to eliminate the use of Trans-Fatty Acids (TFA) in pre-packaged processed foods by next year, including prohibiting the use of on-pack claims such as ‘TFA-free’.

It comes after the country launched a bill in 2020​ and the Department of Health issued an administrative order last June under its “National Policy on the Elimination of Industrially-Produced Trans-Fatty Acids for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases”.

This banned industrially-produced TFA from pre-packaged processed food products, with health officials citing the 'alarming global and local magnitude of the problem involving Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD)'.

It highlighted data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) detailing that 3,000 people in the Philippines die prematurely each year due to high consumption of TFA.

It also stated that studies have consistently suggested that there is no safe level of TFA consumption, and that intake has no known health benefit. They further argued that new regulations were critical to avoid the country becoming a dumping ground for TFA-rich products.

Many neighbouring South East Asian nations, including Thailand and Singapore, have similar regulations in place.

In a recent circular, the Philippines Food and Drug Administration said it was seeking to provide more details for manufacturers, traders, importers,​ and distributors of raw materials, ingredients and pre-packaged processed food products containing TFA .

It clarified that it would be illegal to import, locally manufacture, distribute or use and sell of partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), and oils and fats blended with PHO.

In addition, any oils and fats with a TFA content more than 2g per 100g/ml of total fat; and pre-packaged processed food products with PHO and high TFA content exceeding 2g per 100g/ml of total fat will be banned.

The circular states: “Pre-packaged processed food products for human consumption, commercial sale or use shall not contain PHO whether as a single ingredient or raw material, or as an ingredient to any pre-packaged processed food product. Similarly, the manufacture, trading, importation and distribution in the Philippine market of these products are prohibited.”

It adds that pre-packaged processed food products for export shall follow the rules and regulations for PHO and TFA of the country of destination.

No claims

Manufacturers have also been told that they cannot make any on-pack claims in relation to the absence of TFA.

“The label claim TFA-Free, 0 g Trans Fat or No transfat or any similar claim shall be prohibited on the label and in the marketing/advertising of any processed food,”​ the document states.

Meanwhile, any product containing TFA or PHO, whether local or imported, will have to be registered. Firms will be required to detail the technical specifications of raw materials indicating specific oil(s) and/or fat(s) used and the processing it underwent.

They will also have to secure a certificate of analysis of the finished product from an accredited laboratory of the FDA and/or Philippine Accreditation Board/Office, reflecting the TFA content per 100g or 100ml of total fat​reference methods of analysis, and the limit of detection for the method used in the analysis of TFA.

The licensing process must be completed by June 2023.

“After the transition period, pre-packaged processed food products formulation shall not contain PHO, oils and fats blended with PHO, and TFA beyond the specified limits, and shall be compliant to these guidelines,”​ the circular stated, adding that companies which fail to adhere to the new rules will have their products banned from the shelves and be at risk of further penalties.

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