Today 3.7 billion people better protected from industrial trans fat exposure

WHO has published a new milestone report on progress towards global trans fat elimination, covering the period from 2018–2023. As of 2023, a total of 53 countries had best practice policies in place for tackling industrial trans fat in food. These policies have vastly improved the food environment for 3.7 billion people, or 46% of the world’s population, and could help save approximately 183 000 lives per year. This is significant progress as compared to just 6% coverage, or less than half a billion people, in 2018.

While the ambitious target set by WHO in 2018 to fully eliminate trans fat from the global food supply by the end of 2023 has not been fully met, there has been remarkable progress made towards this goal in every region of the world. In 2023 alone, new best practice policies became effective in seven countries: Egypt, Mexico, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Philippines, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. In January 2024 WHO certified five countries for validating progress in eliminating industrially produced trans fat: Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.

“Beyond passing WHO-recommended best practice trans fat policies, ensuring that compliance with these policies is monitored and enforced will be critical to achieve maximized and sustained health benefits of trans fat elimination,” said Dr Francesco Branca, Director of the Department of Nutrition and Food Safety at WHO. “Trans fat elimination is attainable, affordable and life-saving, and WHO remains committed to supporting Member States in their journeys towards this goal.”

Despite promising trends, progress has been uneven, and more than 4 billion people remain unprotected from this toxic chemical globally with the highest remaining burden concentrated in the WHO African and Western Pacific Regions. Implementing best practice policies in just eight additional countries would eliminate 90% of the global deaths associated with this harmful ingredient.

The new report summarizes country actions to ban industrially produced trans fat and makes recommendations to achieve global trans fat elimination, including:

  • all countries enact best practice policies, especially those with the highest estimated remaining burden of disease attributable to trans fat intake;
  • all countries strengthen their mechanisms to monitor and enforce best practice policies so that they become eligible for the WHO Validation Certificate;
  • subregional bodies pass mandatory trans fat elimination policies; and
  • food manufacturers with a high proportion of fats and oils comply with regulations to increase the use of healthier, alternative fats. Even where regulations are not yet in place, companies should seek to eliminate trans fat in product lines and supply chains.

The World Health Organization has partnered with Resolve to Save Lives, a not-for-profit organization, to support the development and implementation of the REPLACE action package. Launched in 2018, the WHO REPLACE action package provides a strategic approach to eliminating industrially produced trans fat from national food supplies.

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