Regulating Trans Fats

They've been linked to coronary heart disease and increased cholesterol levels and now Trans Fats are being linked to Politics. Government documents show Health Canada was ready to regulate the amount of trans fats in food products - it even had its messaging in place - but the whole idea was scrapped with nary an explanation. Today, we're looking for one.



Part One of The Current

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It's Wednesday, February 8th.

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This is The Current.

Regulating Trans Fats

Today industry is being giving notice that they have two years to reduce the levels of trans fat. If industry doesn't meet these targets then Health Canada will regulate their use.

Well, industry was safe to ignore that notice. That was four years ago, when Tony Clement was Health Minister - and the government was talking tougher on trans fats. You remember trans fats ... Manufacturers like to use them in their products because they extend shelf lives. But health advocates say they shorten human lives by contributing to heart disease and higher cholesterol levels.

Well, back when Tony Clement was still health minister, a government task force called for the regulation of trans-fats in Canada. And one of the people on that task force says the reason there are still no regulations is because the present Health Minister, Leona Aglukkaq, quietly killed them.

Bill Jeffery is the national coordinator of the Ottawa-based Centre for Science in the Public Interest. He came to that conclusion after reading the results of an Access to Information request he filed two years ago. He joined us from Ottawa.

Bill Jeffery is arguing for our government to regulate trans fats in our foods - which isn't an especially radical idea. Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria all have rules about trans-fats. Puerto Rico, California, New York, Philadelphia, Boston all ban trans fats in their restaurants. But our next guest doesn't think regulation is necessary in Canada. Derek Nighbor is the Senior Vice President of Public and Regulatory Affairs with Food and Consumer Products of Canada. He was in Toronto.

We requested interviews with Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and Tony Clement, who is now the President of the Treasury Board. Neither was available to speak with us this morning. But Steve Outhouse, spokesperson for Minister Aglukkaq did agree to give us this statement.

Our government continues to make prevention and health promotion a priority and that includes reducing trans fats in foods. We've seen results from the trans fat monitoring program that show that we're making real progress, and we've seen about three-quarters of pre-packaged foods that have been reviewed have met reduction targets of trans fats. We will continue to use tools such as Canada's Food Guide and the Nutrition Facts Table to provide Canadians with the information they need to make informed choices about the amount of trans fats in their foods.

This half-hour was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott, Lara O'Brien and Josh Bloch.

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