Do you know that trans fats are banned in Canada?

On September 15, 2017, Health Canada announced governmental ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in all foods sold in Canada due to the scientifically proven facts that PHO is the primary dietary source for trans fats in processed foods. It is now illegal for manufacturers to add partially hydrogenated oils to foods sold in Canada. This includes both Canadian and imported foods, as well as those prepared in all food service establishments.

What are Trans Fats?

Trans fat is a common ingredient in both Canadian and foreign food products, as well as those that are prepared and served in our restaurants. But they are not common in nature and only can be found naturally in small quantities in some animal-based foods such as beef, lamb, and dairy products.

Trans fats are produced industrially from a liquid vegetable oil, which transforms into a solid fat during the process called hydrogenation. By the way, the name “trans” came from the “trans” chemical configuration of a fatty acid hydrocarbon chain.

Everything started from soybeans when they began to be imported into the US in the early 20th century as a source of protein. Soybean oil was a by-product and nobody knew what to do with that oil. On the other hand, there was a shortage of butter. So, it was a perfect time for trans fat production: the method, the ingredients and the need were there.

Health risks of trans fats

Trans fats are not good for your health. They dramatically increase the risk of heart disease, which is one of the leading causes of death in Canada. Both trans and saturated fats can raise the levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol in the blood and lower the levels of blood HDL (“good”) cholesterol when compared to other dietary fats.

Yves Savoie, Chief Executive Officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada said that “trans fats are still high in baked goods and other foods.” According to the CEO, this “important final step” of eliminating trans fats from the Canadian food supply will help to reduce heart diseases in Canada and save lives.

As it is stated in the governmental news release, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in Canada, resulting in approximately 50,000 deaths in 2012. Studies have shown that the risk of heart disease increases substantially with higher consumption of trans fats.


Foods high in trans-fat:
  • Deep-fried foods (spring rolls, chicken nuggets, frozen hash browns, French fries)
  • Ready to eat frozen foods (quiche, burritos, pizza, pizza pockets, French fries, egg rolls, veggie and beef patties)
  • Hard (stick) margarine and shortening
  • Commercially baked goods (donuts, Danishes, cakes, pies)
  • Convenience foods (icing, puff pastry, taco shells, pie crusts, cake mixes)
  • Toaster pastries (waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches)
  • Oriental noodles
  • Snack puddings
  • Liquid coffee whiteners
  • Packaged salty snacks (microwave popcorn, chips, crackers)
  • Packaged sweet snacks (cookies, granola bars)


Trans fats in Canada


Trans fats have been widely used in margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods and frying fast food since the 1950s. They were often added to processed foods because they can improve taste and texture and helps the food stay fresh longer.


In the 1990s, Canadians had one of the highest levels of trans fat intake in the world. Since the early 2000s, Health Canada has tried to reduce the trans fat intakes by Canadians through various approaches, including:

  • requiring trans fat labelling on packaged food
  • setting voluntary targets for trans fat in processed foods


These approaches have been very successful in reducing trans fat levels in the Canadian food supply. As a result, Canadians have decreased their trans fat intakes dramatically over the last few decades. Despite this progress, the trans fat consumption level was still high and that why the government of Canada decided to ban its production and use.


The ban came into effect with the addition of partially hydrogenated oils to the List of Contaminants and other Adulterating Substances in Foods. This initiative helps reduce trans fat in the food supply and the trans fat intakes by Canadians to the lowest level possible. In turn, it is expected that this will help reduce the risk of heart disease among Canadians.



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