Topic 1.2 Artificial TFA

Artificial TFA are formed during an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils, forming the so called partially hydrogenated oils (PHO). These fats are much less expensive to produce and less prone to spoil, giving foods a longer shelf life, and more solid texture.

Industrial TFA levels have been decreasing in selected food groups in the past decades but not uniformly across European countries. In some European countries, industrial trans fats levels in pre-packaged biscuits, cakes and wafers have not dropped meaningfully since mid-2000 (European Commision, n.d.).

PHO are the main source of industrially-produced TFA. PHO is an ingredient in many foods, including margarine, vegetable shortening, Vanaspati ghee; fried foods and doughnuts; baked goods such as crackers, biscuits, and pies; and pre-mixed products such as pancake and hot chocolate mix. Baked, fried street and restaurant foods often contain industrially-produced TFA. All of these products can be made without industrially-produced trans fat. 

In many food applications, the use of palm oil and palm oil fractions has been instrumental in efficiently lowering TFA levels. The successful reduction of trans fatty acids in margarine for example, has been predominantly the result of using specific combinations of palm oil and liquid oils. Palm oil is naturally smooth and stable, it is a good replacement for PHO containing TFA. Like most natural seed oils, palm oil only contains very little amounts of TFA (<1%) ((European Palm Oil Alliance, n.d.).