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Food and Nutrition

ARCHIVED - Trans Fat Monitoring Program

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Third Set of Monitoring Data

The results from the third set, dated February 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 restaurant establishments and coffee/donut shops include:

Ethnic foods
Muffins and donuts

Laboratory results of bakery products:

Croissants
Danishes
Pies
Tarts
Cakes
Brownies
Donuts

Nutrition information obtained from the Nutrition Facts table from food labels from pre-packaged foods from grocery stores include:

Cookies
Crackers
Instant Noodles
Frozen Potatoes
Pre-packaged desserts
Snacks
Popcorn

Highlights from the Third Set of Monitoring Data

  • The results from the label review of different pre-packaged foods, indicate that the nutrition labelling regulations are an effective motivator for industry to reformulate their products as many have reduced the trans fat content and their products are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat content limit.
  • The results from the third set of data also show that the levels of trans fats in various ethnic foods are meeting the limits recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force and adopted by Health Canada.
  • There has also been some progress in bakery products in the reduction of trans fat, from both grocery stores and coffee and donut shops.

Results of foods from coffee and donut establishments:

The results indicate that out of 29 samples analyzed, 17 (or 59%) are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit. Additionally, all 5 coffee and donut shops that were included in this data set offer menu items that are low in trans fat. However, 3 of the 5 establishments still offer menu items that are above the 5% trans fat of total fat limit.

Results of foods from various ethnic restaurants:

The third set of monitoring data includes samples that were collected from establishments that offer a variety of ethnic foods. The results of the ethnic foods indicate that out of 63 foods, 56 (or 89%) are meeting the 5% trans fat of total limit. Additionally, there are foods that are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit from various ethnic restaurants including: Chinese, Thai, East Indian, Lebanese, Caribbean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

Results from the label review:

The results from the label review indicate the following:

  1. 65% of cookies (44 out of a total of 68 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  2. 86% of crackers (44 out of a total of 51 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  3. 86% of instant noodles (19 out of a total of 22 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  4. 91% of frozen potatoes (10 out of a total of 11 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  5. 80% of pre-packaged desserts (63 out of a total of 79 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  6. 92% of snacks (85 out of a total of 92 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  7. 58% of popcorn (13 out of a total of 22 products) are meeting the 5% limit.

Percentage of pre-packaged foods meeting the 5% trans fat of total
fat limit in 2008

Percentage of pre-packaged foods meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit in 2008

Fig. 1: Percentage of pre-packaged foods representing seven different food categories that are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit in 2008.

Results of bakery products:

The results from the bakery products analyses indicate the following:

  1. 25% of croissants (4 out of a total of 16 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  2. 45% of danishes (5 out a total of 11 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  3. 36% of pies (4 out of a total of 11 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  4. 67% of tarts (10 out of a total of 15 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  5. 43% of cakes (6 out of a total of 14 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  6. 45% of brownies (5 out of a total of 11 products) are meeting the 5% limit.
  7. 33% of donuts (1 out of a total of 3 products) are meeting the 5% limit.

The results from the bakery products laboratory analyzes indicate that out of 81 products analyzed, 35 (or 43%) are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit. The results also indicate that most of the products that are higher than the 5% limit do not have a Nutrition Facts table. Specifically, out of 46 products that are above the 5% limit, 38 (or 83%) of them are unlabelled.

Sample Collection

The individual products that were selected for label review represented 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 seven different food categories (cookies, crackers, instant noodles, frozen potatoes, pre-packaged desserts, snacks, and popcorn) were collected from major grocery stores from across Canada: Toronto, Ontario, Vancouver, British Columbia, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Quebec, and Scarborough, Ontario.

The bakery products selected for analysis were collected from major grocery stores from: Toronto (Oakville, Burlington, and Scarborough), Ontario, St. Catharines, Ontario Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Montreal (Longueuil), Quebec.

The food samples that were selected from restaurants were collected from establishments serving various ethnic cuisines in Scarborough, Ontario, and from popular coffee/donut shops in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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 third set of monitoring data

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

For the label review:

For the label review, the food categories (cookies, crackers, instant noodles, frozen potatoes, pre-packaged desserts, snacks, and popcorn) 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 products 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 March 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 establishments serving foods from various ethnic cuisines, and from coffee and donut shops. The ethnic cuisines included: Chinese, Thai, East Indian, Lebanese, Caribbean, Japanese, and Vietnamese.

Individual restaurants were selected randomly by searching Canada 411 for restaurants serving different types of ethnic cuisines.

The donut and muffin samples were collected from popular coffee and donut shops in Halifax, Nova Scotia in January 2008.

The bakery products from various grocery stores were chosen for laboratory analysis since they represent foods that were previously significant sources of trans fat. They were collected from grocery stores in the following cities: Toronto (Oakville, Burlington, and Scarborough), Ontario; St. Catharines, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; and Montreal (Longueuil), Quebec.

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.

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 third set of data represents samples that were collected and analyzed in 2008. The Department will continue to post the data from its ongoing monitoring program. The next round of sample collection and analyses is underway and we anticipate the next set of data will be released in the spring 2009.

Question 3: Why were foods from ethnic cuisines 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. The results from the first and second data sets have indicated that industry is making progress and that the trans fat content of many foods from these establishments 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 from restaurants serving foods from various ethnic cuisines, such as Chinese, East Indian, and Caribbean, 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: What food products will be analyzed in the future?

Based on previous and current data sets, foods from most of the top family restaurants, popular fast food chains, and establishments with various types of ethnic cuisines are meeting the trans fat limit. Thus, the objective is to target small and medium sized restaurants for future analyses.

Another objective of the next round of sample collection is to analyze foods from other sectors that have not yet been included in the monitoring program. For example Health Canada will be analyzing foods from food service operations such as cafeterias.

Finally, for pre-packaged foods, the objectives are to expand the label review and include nutrition information from the Nutrition Facts table from other food categories and products.

Question 7: Based on the results, are there certain foods that Canadians should avoid?

The data that has been posted does not reflect all ethnic cuisines or food products available to consumers - it is merely a sampling. As indicated by the data tables, food companies are continuing to reformulate their food products to reduce trans fat. We anticipate that more and more products will have reduced trans fat content in the future.

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 8: Why are there results in the third data set from companies that have already met the trans fat limits, according to previous data sets?

The reason for including these results in the third data set is to do a spot check with updated data. This verifies that the companies that have already reformulated their products to reduce the trans fat content have not switched back to using partially hydrogenated oils to manufacture their products.

Some of the samples in this third data set (the donuts and muffins from coffee and donut shops) were collected from a city that has not been targeted in previous analyses. This verifies that there are no regional differences and assures consumers that the same product they buy in one city in Canada is the same as in another city in Canada.