Anyone reading the press in recent months could be forgiven for thinking they were about to drop dead in the street because they had munched on a hot pie laced with ’killer fats’.
It’s all pretty scary stuff. And, of course, it’s all complete and utter nonsense. For ’killer fats’ read trans fatty acids, which have always been in foods such as butter, milk, beef and lamb, and which for decades have appeared as a by-product of the process of partially hydrogenating the oils used to make biscuits, cakes and pastries.
Food manufacturers are committed to reducing trans fats levels to as low as is technically possible because there is evidence to suggest they can lower HDL (good) cholesterol and raise LDL (bad) cholesterol.
But there are myths about trans fats that need dispelling. The most sinister is the perception put about by the anti-food brigade that this is a huge problem. ’We need new rules,’ they cry; ’we need banning orders,’ they scream; ’we need better labelling,’ they demand. But this just isn’t true.
The fact is that the government’s latest national diet and nutrition survey shows consumption of trans fats had fallen from 2.1% of total energy in 1985 to 1.2% of total energy by 2000. And the work continues to reduce those levels further.
Earlier this month, the FDF polled its biggest members to find out how much they had achieved. The results were stunning: we reckon that more than £1.5bn worth of products have been dramatically reformulated in the last couple of years to either remove trans fats completely or virtually eliminate them.
So, that’s why I believe the lurid headlines are ludicrous. But I suppose they do serve one important purpose: reminding us that we all need to do a better job of countering the headlines and telling consumers the truth about the foods they enjoy - pies and all!