ARCHIVED - Trans Fat Monitoring Program

Second Set of Monitoring Data

The results from the second of monitoring data, dated July 2008, include data of food samples that have been analyzed for trans fat from 2005-2008.

Samples of pre-packaged foods and foods from grocery stores include:

Samples of foods from fast food and restaurant establishments include:

Highlights From the Second Set of Monitoring Data

  • The results from the second set of monitoring data show continued progress in the reduction of trans fat from products in different food categories and positive changes to meet the targets recommended by the Trans Fat Task Force and adopted by Health Canada.
  • Most of the top fast food and family restaurant chains in Canada have been successful in reducing trans fat from menu items that have been previously high in trans fat such as french fries, chicken products, fish products, and pizzas.
  • There has also been some progress in the reduction of trans fat from soft margarines.

Results of Foods From Restaurants and Fast Food Establishments

The second set of monitoring data represents samples that were collected from fast food establishments and family restaurants from 2006-2008. We looked at those menu items that were previously identified as having high levels of trans fat, including french fries, chicken products, fish products, donuts, and pizza.

The results of the samples analysed shows that progress is being made in some of these areas to meet the trans fat levels established by the Trans Fat Task Force and adopted by Health Canada.

As illustrated in Figure 1 below, we have now sampled french fries from a of total 37 different fast-food chains and family restaurants. Out of the 37 establishments sampled, 29 or 78% of them offer french fries that are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat level. In terms of chicken products, 59% (17 out of 29) of the establishments sampled are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat level. Out of the 5 pizza chains we sampled from, all of them offer pizzas that are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat level. Finally, 85% (11 out of 13) of the establishments that we sampled from offer fish products that are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat level.


* indicates the number of establishments sampled

Figure 1: Percent of restaurants and fast food chains with french fries, chicken products,
pizzas, and fish products meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit from 2006-2008.

Figure 1: Percent of restaurants and fast food chains with french fries, chicken products, pizzas, and fish products meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit from 2006-2008

As we broadened the Trans Fat Monitoring Program, the same establishments were not always sampled from one year to the next. In addition, our sampling plans have expanded to include foods from small and medium sized fast-food chains and family restaurants. Therefore, while we are encouraged by the number of fast food chains and family restaurants sampled in 2008 that are meeting the target limit of 5% trans fat of the total fat content (as illustrated in Figure 2 below for french fries), it is important to look at the total number of establishments sampled from 2006-2008 to get a clear picture of where we are at in terms of achieving the recommended levels.


* indicates the number of establishments sampled

Figure 2: Percent of restaurants and fast food chains
with french fries meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit

Figure 2: Percent of restaurants and fast food chains with french fries meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat limit

The results for donuts indicate that, while some progress has been made to reduce the level of trans fat, there is still room for improvement in this area. We recognize that there are challenges for this food category with respect to replacing trans fat with healthier alternatives.

Results for Pre-packaged Foods and Foods From Grocery Stores

The second set of monitoring data also includes results for samples of pre-packaged foods and foods from grocery stores that were previously identified as having high levels of trans fat, including frozen pizzas, garlic breads, and margarines and spreads. The results of our analysis for these food products indicates that, while some progress has been made to reduce the level of trans fat, there is still room for improvement in these areas.

For example, as illustrated in Figure 3 below, the percent of soft margarines meeting the 2% trans fat of total fat content has increased from 58% in 2005 to 65% in 2007 (samples collected Sept. 2007-Dec. 2007).


Figure 3: Percent of soft margarines in 2005 and in 2007
(collected in Sept. 2007-Dec. 2007) meeting the 2% trans fat of total fat limit

Figure 3:  Percent of soft margarines in 2005 and in 2007 (collected in Sept. 2007-Dec. 2007) meeting the 2% trans fat of total fat limit

The monitoring program also analyzed bread and bun products. However, the data tables for bread and bun products were not included since as expected 100% of the products that were analyzed in 2007 are meeting the 5% trans fat of total fat content. This is consistent with results that were reported by the Trans Fat Task Force’s Final Report “TRANSforming the Food Supply”, 2006. Thus, this confirms that manufacturers have made and sustained the change to non hydrogenated oils.

Sample Collection

The individual products were chosen for analysis since they represented the majority of products sold within a particular food category. For pre-packaged foods, the products that were analysed accounted for more than 80% of the market share within that food category. The foods from restaurant and fast food establishments were sampled from the major chains.

Food samples for the second set of results of the Trans Fat Monitoring Program were collected from major grocery stores and fast food and restaurant establishments in Scarborough, Ontario; Ottawa, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Longueuil, Quebec; and Halifax, Nova Scotia (including Dartmouth and Bedford Nova Scotia)

From grocery stores, samples consisted of three consumer sized packages from the same lot. For most food categories, at least two samples from different lots were purchased. A small portion from each of the three packages was taken and homogenised to form a combined sample for each lot. Fat analyses were performed on each combined sample. The values given in the data tables are the averages for the combined samples. Samples of foods from fast food and restaurant establishments consisted of a single portion from a single lot. The samples were ground and stored frozen until fat analysis. The analysis was conducted in three Health Canada laboratories (Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg).

Analytical Methodology

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 Second Set of Monitoring Data

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

The second set of data represents food samples that were collected from major grocery stores and fast food and restaurant establishments in Scarborough, Ontario; Ottawa, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Longueuil, Quebec; and Halifax, Nova Scotia (including Dartmouth and Bedford Nova Scotia). The analysis of the fat content was conducted in three Health Canada laboratories (Ottawa, Toronto, and Winnipeg).

In certain cases, where products had been reformulated, companies provided Health Canada with reliable and accurate data about the specific reformulated products. The methodology used by these companies to analyse the trans fat content in the reformulated products was consistent with the methods and standards used by Health Canada for the Trans Fat Monitoring Program. The reformulated products are identified in the data tables with footnotes.

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

The second set of data represents samples that were collected in 2005, 2007, and 2008. The Department will continue to post the data from its ongoing monitoring program over the next year. The department plans to publish the data twice per year in the same format for each food analyzed. The next round of sampling is underway and we anticipate the next set of data will be published in the late 2008.

Question 3: Why were these product categories chosen?

These product categories were chosen since they represented 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).

Question 4: Why were these individual products chosen?

The individual products were chosen for analysis since they represented the majority of products sold within a particular food category. For example, the margarines that were analysed in 2005 and 2007 accounted for more than 80% of the market share (as volume share). The foods from restaurant and fast food establishments were sampled from the major chains and establishments which included top burger chains, top chicken chains, top pizza chains, and top family restaurants.

Question 5: Why were the results from 2005 and 2006 included in the data tables?

The inclusion of data from 2005 and 2006 is to help show that ongoing progress has been made to reduce the levels of trans fat. For example, the 2005 margarine data was included to compare with more current data from 2007.

Question 6: What is the difference between soft and hard margarines?

Soft margarines, often sold in tub-like containers, are generally used for spreading applications. Whereas hard margarines, often sold in brick-like containers and called print margarines, are generally used for baking applications since they can be used as an alternative to lard and shortening.

Question 7: Why was butter not included in the foods sampled?

The second set of monitoring data does not include results for butter since the Trans Fat Task Force did not recommend reductions in natural sources of trans fat. The Trans Fat Task Force’s mandate was to recommend limits to effectively eliminate or reduce processed trans fat in Canadian foods to the lowest level possible. Thus, the limits that were recommended do not apply to food products for which the fat originates exclusively as naturally occurring trans fat such as in the case of butter, dairy products and ruminant meat.

Question 8: How do butter and margarines differ?

They differ in the types and amount of fat they contain. For example, butter contains naturally occurring trans fat, while some soft margarines can contain varying amounts of industrially produced trans fat from the partially hydrogenated oils that were used in their manufacture. Other soft margarines do not use partially hydrogenated oils and contain only trace amounts of trans fat which come from the normal refining of vegetable oils. Butter and margarines also differ in the amounts of saturated fat. The level of saturated fat in butter is higher than in soft and hard margarines.

Question 9: Is there a price difference between soft margarines that are high and low in trans fat?

Based on the soft margarines that were sampled by Health Canada, there are soft margarines with low trans fat levels available at all price ranges.

Question 10: In the case where a product was sampled more than once, why are there variations in the levels of fat?

The slight differences in the levels of fat found in a specific product can be attributed to how the product was processed on that given day (i.e. even the slightest variation in the length of time a product is fried in frying oil can result in small differences in the levels of trans fat).

Question 11: What food products will be analyzed in the future?

For restaurant and fast food chains, the objective of the next round of sampling is to analyze foods that continue to be high in trans fat. Since foods from most of the top chains are meeting the trans fat limit, more of the small and medium sized establishments will be targeted. Those foods that are already meeting the 2% and 5% limits will not be targeted for laboratory re-analysis.

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

Finally, for pre-packaged foods, the plan includes an extensive review of nutrition information on product labels.

Question 12: Has saturated fat been used to replace trans fat?

In all food categories targeted, we have seen success in reducing the level of trans fat. In many cases, this has been achieved by finding healthier alternatives and not increasing the levels of saturated fat.

Question 13: What alternatives are being used?

In meeting the recommended limits, most companies and food manufacturers are managing to replace trans fat with healthier alternatives such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat.

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