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Food and Nutrition

ARCHIVED - Trans Fat Monitoring Program

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Fourth Set of Monitoring Data

The results from the fourth set, dated December 2009, include data from food samples analyzed for total fat, trans fat, and saturated fat. The results also include nutrition information obtained from the Nutrition Facts table from various food labels that were part of an extensive label review of pre-packaged foods.

Samples of foods that were analyzed from small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants include:

Samples of foods that were analyzed from cafeterias located in institutions:

Nutrition information from food labels from pre-packaged foods from grocery stores include:

Highlights from the Fourth Set of Monitoring Data

  • The fourth set of monitoring data continues to indicate that the nutrition labelling regulations are an effective motivator for industry to reformulate their products as many food manufacturers have reduced the trans fat content of their products to meet the 5% trans fat of total fat content limit.
  • The results also indicate that some of the small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants have been successful in reducing the trans fat levels of their products to meet the limits.
  • There has also been progress, although slightly slower than other areas of the food service industry, in foods collected from cafeterias located in institutions.
  • Finally, the results continue to show that there are some sectors that face challenges in reducing the trans fat content of their products. For example some bakery products, desserts, and cookies remain high in trans fat. The hurdles they face include maintaining the functional properties of their products, however, alternatives are now available for all applications. In these sectors the level of success has also been lower.

Results from the label review:

The results from the label review indicate the following:

  1. out of 49 frozen packaged baked desserts - 36 (or 73%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  2. out of 17 coffee creamers and whiteners - 8 (or 47%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  3. out of 27 snack puddings - 21 (or 78%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  4. out of 109 frozen appetizers - 93 (or 85%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  5. out of 85 frozen dinners and entrees - 69 (or 81%) were meeting the trans fat limit

Results of foods collected from small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants:

The results for foods collected from small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants are as follows:

  1. out of 52 french fries - 41 (or 79%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  2. out of 52 chicken products - 39 (or 75%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  3. out of 25 desserts - 14 (or 56%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  4. out of 8 bakery products - 5 (or 63%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  5. out of 5 muffins - all were meeting the trans fat limit
  6. out of 5 cookies - 2 (or 40%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  7. out of 5 miscellaneous fast foods - all were meeting the trans fat limit

Results of foods collected from cafeterias located in institutions:

The results for foods collected from cafeterias located in institutions are as follows:

  1. out of 21 french fries - 15 (or 71%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  2. out of 29 cookies - 22 (or 76%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  3. out of 22 muffins - all met the trans fat limit
  4. out of 15 chicken products - 12 (or 80%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  5. out of 5 onion rings and fish products - 3 (or 60%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  6. out of 8 bakery products and desserts - 5 (or 63%) were meeting the trans fat limit
  7. out of 2 miscellaneous - all were meeting the trans fat limit
  8. out of 4 margarines - 1 (or 25%) was meeting the trans fat limit
  9. out of 17 popcorn and snacks from movie theatres - 16 (or 94%) were meeting the trans fat limit

Sample Collection

Food samples were collected from small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants in and around Winnipeg, Manitoba and Toronto, Ontario. These establishments were identified as having 2 or more units within the same city.

Food samples were also collected from cafeterias located in institutions such as hospitals, college campuses, university campuses, high schools, train stations, and nursing homes. These foods were collected from institutions in various cities across Canada: Victoria, British Columbia, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ottawa, Ontario, Montreal, Quebec, and Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

Popcorn and other snacks, namely nacho chips and cheese sauce, were collected from movie theatres in and around Winnipeg, Manitoba.

For the label review, the sampling plans were expanded for the fourth set to include more mixed dishes. The individual items that were selected represented a group of products that accounted for the majority of products sold within a particular food category. Using market share data, products were chosen and collectively represented more than 99% of the market share (as volume share). The products from 5 different food categories were collected from major grocery stores from across Canada: Toronto, Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec, and Scarborough, Ontario.

Analytical Methodology

The analysis was conducted in three Health Canada laboratories (Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg).

The food samples were analysed by the recommended method for trans fat analyses in Canada, the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) Method 996.06 (1). This laboratory procedure and methodology is used to determine the total fat and fatty acids in a wide variety of foods that require nutrition labelling in Canada and the United States.

Reference:

1) AOAC Official Method 996.06. Fat (Total, Saturated, and Unsaturated) in foods, hydrolytic extraction gas chromatographic method, Revised 2001. In: Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International 18th Edition (Horwitz, W, ed.).

Questions and answers related to the fourth set of monitoring data

Question 1: How was the monitoring carried out for the fourth set of data?

For the label review:

For the label review, the sampling plans were expanded for the fourth set to include more mixed dishes. The food categories were chosen since they represent foods that were previously significant sources of trans fat, i.e. foods that either contained high levels of trans fat, or foods with lower levels of trans fat that were consumed in large quantities by a large number of consumers.

The individual items within each category were selected based on market share data. Collectively, products represented more than 99% of the market share, as volume share. However, there were products within the 99% market share range that were not included since, based on previous monitoring data sets, the levels of trans fat are already low in these products. Thus, label review of these products was not repeated.

The food labels were collected in October 2008 from major grocery stores from the following cities: Toronto, Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec, and Scarborough, Ontario.

In certain cases, where products had been reformulated sometime after the label review was conducted, companies provided Health Canada with the complete food label including the Nutrition Facts table and information (for example reformulation date) concerning the specific product. The reformulated products are identified in the data tables with footnotes.

For the products that were analyzed in the laboratory:

For the laboratory analyses, samples were collected from small/medium sized restaurants and fast foods outlets in and around Winnipeg, Manitoba and Toronto, Ontario, and from cafeterias that are found in institutions (ex. hospitals, university campuses, high schools).

The small/medium sized restaurants and fast food outlets were identified as having 2 or more unit within the same city (in this case, Winnipeg and Toronto). The telephone directory, Canada 411, was used to search restaurants and fast food outlets in each city. Foods from cafeterias were collected from a random sample of institution across Canada. Local food inspectors (at the municipal and provincial health unit level) assisted in the sample collection.

Popcorn and other snacks, namely nacho chips and cheese sauce, were collected from movie theatres in and around Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The analysis of the fat content was conducted in three Health Canada laboratories (Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg) by the methodology described in the methodology page.

Question 2: How often does the sampling occur for the monitoring program?

The fourth set of data represents samples that were collected and analysed in the fall of 2008 and early in 2009. The fourth set follows the first three sets that were released in December 2007, July 2008, and February 2009, respectively.

This fourth set of data is the last data set for the two year Trans Fat Monitoring Program announced in June 2007. Health Canada may monitor some food categories in the future.

Question 3: Why were foods from cafeterias located in institutions chosen for analyses?

The objectives of our sampling plans included analyzing foods that have not yet been included in the monitoring program. Until now, most of the monitoring program has focussed on analyzing fried foods from family restaurants and popular fast food chains as well as pre-packaged foods that carry a Nutrition Facts table.

The results from the first, second, and third data sets have indicated that industry is making progress and that the trans fat content of many of these foods has decreased. Thus, the objective of our sampling plans is to include foods from other sectors that have not been included in the monitoring program. As a result, fried foods and bakery products from cafeterias in high schools, on college and university campuses, in hospitals, and in nursing homes were selected for analyses.

Question 4: Why aren't the trans and saturated fats from the Nutrition Facts tables being reported per serving size?

The manner in which the trans and saturated fats are expressed relate directly to the 2% and 5% limits of total fat content that were recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force and are being used as the standards to monitor industry's progress in reducing trans fats from their products.

Question 5: How accurate are the Nutrition Facts tables

The information in the Nutrition Facts tables is accurate. Based on comparisons between the amount declared in the Nutrition Facts table and Health Canada laboratory analyses, most (approximately 85%) of the products had values that matched the values declared on the label. Thus, consumers should feel confident that the information in the Nutrition Facts tables is accurate and reliable for making healthy food choices.

Question 6: Based on the results, are there certain foods that Canadians should avoid?

The data that has been posted does not reflect all food products available or sold to consumers, it is merely a sampling. As indicated by the data tables in all four data sets, food companies and food manufacturers are continuing to reformulate their food products to reduce trans fat.

Health Canada continues to encourage Canadians to choose foods that are low in both trans and saturated fat. Eating Well With Canada's Food Guide, an important tool that Canadians are encouraged to use to help make healthier food choices contains specific recommendations on the types and amounts of food that promote a healthy diet and provides tips for eating out.

In addition, Canadians are encouraged to read the Nutrition Facts Table when making food selections, as it lists the amount of trans and saturated fat a product contains, as well as other important nutritional information such as calories and the level of 13 core nutrients.

Question 7: Why were the names of the small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants not identified?

The names of the small and medium-sized family and quick service restaurants were not identified because of the small sample size. They represented a snapshot of the small/medium sized establishment sector.

Question 8: Why were the names of the cafeterias located in institutions not identified?

Similar to the small and medium-sized restaurants, the names of the food cafeterias located in institutions were not identified because of the small sample size. They represented a snapshot of this food service sector.

Question 9: What is the source of trans fats in some of the mixed dishes?

It is possible that some of the mixed dishes contain a mixture of naturally occurring trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Small amounts of trans fat (generally 2-5% of the fat content) are naturally present in foods such as dairy products, beef and lamb. Trans fats can also be formed from the "partial hydrogenation" process and make up the majority of trans fats in our diets. Thus, it is possible that some of the mixed dishes contain a mixture of naturally occurring trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils.

For those products whose source of fat is naturally occurring trans fat (i.e. the fat originates exclusively from ruminant meat or dairy products), they are identified in the data tables with an asterisk. The asterisk indicates that while the TFA levels are above 5%, the trans fat in the product originates exclusively from natural sources.

Question 10: What are the next steps with the monitoring program and trans fats in Canada?

This fourth set of data is the last data set for the two year Trans Fat Monitoring Program announced in June 2007. Health Canada may monitor some food categories in the future. Currently the department is analyzing the impact of the two year monitoring program on the average trans fat intake of Canadians to determine what the best approach would be to reach the targets recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force. Moving forward, Health Canada will continue to engage stakeholders in further discussions.