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Assessment of Trans Fatty Acids in Imported Oils

In 2015, FSANZ presented a technical evaluation in response to Recommendation 13 from the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (mandatory declaration of trans-fatty acids (TFA) in the nutrition information panel) to the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum). The technical evaluation reported results from an analytical survey of TFA levels in 500 foods purchased in Australia and New Zealand which found that TFA levels were generally low. A dietary intake assessment of TFAs found that intakes were below the World Health Organization’s recommended level of 1% dietary energy in both Australia and New Zealand. Based on the outcomes of the technical evaluation FSANZ advised that mandatory labelling of TFAs did not appear warranted. The Forum agreed that that no further work should be undertaken.

The Forum noted that FSANZ would continue to maintain a watching brief on TFAs and requested an assessment of TFAs in imported oils to be provided to the Forum in early 2017.

In response to the Forum request, FSANZ and NZMPI have undertaken the following activities:

  • developed a detailed survey proposal in 2016 to assess TFAs in imported fats and oils. The proposal was accepted by ISFR at the August 2016 meeting and incorporated onto the Coordinated Food Survey Plan
  • analysed Customs import data for Australia and New Zealand to identify manufacturers, products and country of origin of imported vegetable fats and oils;
  • undertaken a survey of New Zealand importers to identify products with TFA specifications above 2%; and
  • performed an on-line and in-store retail product survey of TFA levels reported on nutrition information labels of products in Australia and New Zealand.

The key findings are as follows:

  • The majority of imported vegetable fats and oils come from relatively few countries. For Australia the majority of imports are from Malaysia, United States of America and Singapore. The majority of New Zealand imports are from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • Import volumes of liquid vegetable fats and oils most likely to contain TFAs (tariff codes 1516) have decreased for Australia and New Zealand, by 53% (2012-2015) and 33% (2012-2016), respectively.
  • Import volumes of margarines (tariff code 1517) have decreased for Australia and New Zealand, by 7.5% (2012-2015) and 23% (2012-2016), respectively.
  • Import volumes of all vegetable fats and oils increased by 9% in Australia (2012-2015) and 13% in New Zealand (2012-2016).
  • The NZMPI survey of importer product specifications did not identify any liquid vegetable oils with TFA levels above 2%. The majority of solid products had TFA levels below 5% while the highest level of TFA reported was 9% for a single product (described as margarine). These results are consistent with previous analytical surveys.
  • An intelligence gathering exercise to examine labelled TFA levels in retail products and manufacturing fats and oils indicated they are consistent with previous analytical surveys.

In conclusion:

  • In recent years there has been a significant decline in the importation of vegetable fats and oils with potential to contain TFAs into Australia and New Zealand.
  • Reported levels of TFA from product specifications and the nutrition information labels of fats and oils are consistent with results from the recent (2006-2013) analytical surveys.
  • Analytical survey activity from 2006-2013 and the current assessment of imported vegetable fats and oils indicate that dietary intakes of manufactured TFAs in Australian and New Zealand foods have continued to reduce over time.
  • Further analytical survey work for imported fats and oils does not appear to be warranted at this time.

Read Assessment of Trans Fatty Acids in Imported Oils (pdf 741kb) | (word 238kb)

More information

Monitoring of trans fatty acids​


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