Trans fatty acids (trans-fats) are formed via hydrogenation of unsaturated fatty acids in fats and oils. Hydrogenation increases the melting point of these fats, and they are readily incorporated into formulations of solid fat (MPOB, 2012). This process prolongs the shelf life, and also improves the flavor stability in commercially produced foods. Trans-fats are prevalent in processed food such as margarine, baked foods, chips, salad dressings, fried foods, candies, crackers, granola bars etc. According to research studies, trans-fats increase low density lipoprotein (LDL) - bad cholesterol. This predisposes consumers to heart disease and cancer. These fats have been banned in some states such New-York. Despite these known adverse effect, trans-fats continue to be consumed at a large scale. Trans-fats pose a significant health risk to consumers and their use should be banned in all countries world over.
These trans-fats were initially seen as a suitable alternative to saturated fats such as butter (Pollan, 2006). They were not subjected to routine regulatory tools, and their adverse effects were realized after fifty years. Sufficient epidemiological evidence has proven the adverse effects of trans-fats (MPOB, 2012). A health study was conducted by nurses on 85,095 women over a span of eight years. The study was aimed at assessing the coronary heart disease mortality, and incidences of myocardial infarction linked to consumption of trans-fats. A significant positive association was noted between cardiovascular heart disease and trans-fats. The major source of trans-fats came from cookies and margarine. In addition, a follow-up study was conducted on 239 patients, a significant association was found between trans-fats contained in margarines, and the onset of myocardial infarction. The intake of trans-fats was negatively and positively related to HDL and LDL cholesterol respectively in male patients who had myocardial infarction (MPOB, 2012). Moreover, the intake of trans-fats increased the onset of cardio-vascular disease by 27%. In the United States alone, 80,000 deaths have been linked to the consumption of trans-fats. In light of this evidence, trans-fats should be banned. Most consumers are unaware of these adverse effects, and they continue to predispose themselves to disease. Strict regulations on safety need to be passed in the food industry to protect consumers.
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Trans-fats have been banned in Switzerland, Denmark, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Seattle. Many states are pursuing the ban. Those opposing the ban- largely food processors- cite that consumers should be allowed to choose. This is a flimsy reason as consumers easily overlook the adverse effects, and opt to enjoy the superior good flavor of processed food rendered by trans-fats. In addition, the poor have no choice as they can only afford the heavily processed food that is cheap. All food safety authorities have the mandate to protect consumers. Simply put, all foods in the market should be fit for human consumption. In addition, many food processors deliberately omit to label food containing trans-fats. Thus in most instances, consumers cannot make an informed choice. It is interesting, that those opposing the ban of trans-fats do not give any valid reason. Some cite that there are many harmful substances that deserve to be banned and it is unfair to single out trans-fats. Others argue that the ban would mean a waste of resources since so much has been put in the development of trans-fats.
It is imperative to list trans-fats as poisonous substances, and their use should be banned world over. The epidemiological evidence concerning their health risk is credible and sufficient. Continual use of trans-fats predisposes consumers to cancer and cardiovascular disease. The opponents to the ban are money-minded food processors who do not want to use the more costly oils containing polyunsaturated fatty acids. There is no gain in consuming cheap harmful food as the consumers will incur high costs to treat diseases arising from the consumption of foods containing trans-fats.
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