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The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given food companies three years to cut trans fats from the US food supply.

The FDA says artificial trans fats, which are derived from partially hydrogenated oils, are no longer considered safe in food.

The ingredient, which was introduced to the food supply in the 1950s, was once widespread in margarine and other processed foods.

It has been estimated that around 85 per cent of trans fats already been removed from US supermarkets and restaurant menus, and the amount of trans fats in the Australian diet are now at extremely low levels by international standards, according to the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC).

“Australians typically obtain around 0.6 per cent of their daily kilojoules from trans fats. Of this, about half come from naturally occurring sources. This is well under the World Health Organisation recommendation to consume less than 1 per cent of daily kilojoules in the form of trans fats,” said AFGC CEO Mr Gary Dawson.

Dawson said that the US is catching up to Australian standards with regard to trans fats.

“The level of trans fats in the Australian diet is low because manufacturers of many products recognised this as an issue more than 10 years ago and took steps to remove them from their products.”

He said the food industry’s partnership with the National Heart Foundation “Tick” program had also provided an incentive for manufacturers to reduce the use of trans fatty acid containing fats in their products.

“Through innovation and reformulation Australian soft margarines have been free of trans fat for over 10 years and a number of companies have moved to take them out of their biscuits and confectionery lines,” said Dawson.

“There are excellent commercial frying oils now available that are virtually free of trans fats.”

The AFGC is also part of the Australia New Zealand Collaboration on Trans fats, which it says is investigating if there is anything further that can be done to reduce the amount of trans fats in the Australian food supply.

However a key issue for this group is to ensure any reduction in trans fat levels does not result in an increase in the use of saturated fats, according to the AFGC.

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