Some of the leading retailers in the UK are to stop using trans-fats in their own-label products by the end of 2007.

The announcement came from the British Retail Consortium, which paid tribute to the decision taken by Asda, Boots, Co-op, Iceland, Marks and Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6314753.stm).

Trans-fats, in the form of hydrogenated oils, contribute to high cholesterol levels. They are often added to bakery and dairy products to extend shelf-life and improve texture, whilst they are also a staple of the fast food industry.

They have absolutely no nutritional value. Like saturated fats, they raise blood cholesterol levels which increase the risk of coronary heart disease and have been singled out by some commentators as one of the primary causes of rising obesity levels in this country and other “Western” nations. As a result health authorities around the world have recommended their consumption be slashed or cut out completely.

The BRC spokesman said around 5,000 own-brand products would be affected by today’s decision (http://www.brc.org.uk).

But while such a move should be applauded, it actually only represents a tip of the iceberg.

Check out the ingredients labels on some of the basic foods you have in your own cupboards and you’ll find just how widespread the use of trans-fats is in the food industry – look for “hydrogenated oil” as a useful starting point.

What today’s decision should do is issue a challenge to the industry as a whole to get rid of trans-fats completely by the end of the year.

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