Is Canada’s Trans Fats Ban Good for Canadians?

Health Before Flavour

Why trans fats have rightfully been banned

Alexander Derbas // Contributor

Trans fats (also known as unsaturated fatty acids) are an unhealthy substance that are mass-produced industrially. They are found lurking in many common foods we eat, including pizza, popcorn, french fries, fried chicken, breakfast cereals, chocolate and candy. On Sept. 17, 2018, the main source of trans fats, partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), was banned from Canada’s food supply and added to Canada’s List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods. Dietitians of Canada further explains, “The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has allowed existing stocks of food containing PHOs (processed before September 2018) to be sold until September 2020 (after which they will be virtually gone).”

It’s in Canada’s best interests to have banned artificial trans fats. Although trans fats do exist in small amounts in nature (such as in dairy products and certain meats), they’re not nearly as bad as factory-made trans fats. “What trans fats essentially do is increase levels of bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and decrease levels of good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol). The result of this is that they clog your blood vessels and [cause] an increased risk of heart disease and heart attacks,” said Carol Dombrow, a registered dietitian with the Heart & Stroke Foundation, in an interview with CTV News Channel Sunday. “With the ban of trans fats, what’s being predicted is that we would save 12,000 people [from] having a heart attack over the next 20 years,” said Dombrow.

With a transitionary period of two years before Canadian food suppliers have to completely remove any trans fats from their products, expect to say goodbye to many common snack foods such as popcorn, donuts and candy. Though the reality may not be so drastic, we may see some changes in taste and texture. “While people shouldn’t taste many differences in their foods, the difference might be more noticeable in such products as croissants, for example,” said Manuel Arango, director of health policy and advocacy at the Heart & Stroke Foundation. Denmark is the first country to have banned trans fats back in 2003, with countries such as the United States and Switzerland following suit.

Trans fats are a deadly toxin that have no place in our society. “The government has made a decision that the shelf life of Canadians is more important than the shelf life of croissants,” stated Arango. No level of trans fats is healthy for humans, and it’s about time they were removed from our food supply. With huge social and economic implications, additives such as trans fats have wreaked havoc on people around the world. Frankly, an emphasis on what exactly is in the food we eat is well overdue.

Big Fat Lie

Banning trans fats is worse than doing nothing for public health

Tia Kutschera Fox // Contributor

Let’s be real here. Banning trans fats is just a way for the government to pat itself on the back while not actually doing anything to fix the systemic issue of accessibility to healthy foods. The Food Research & Action Center stated that, “When available, healthy food may be more expensive in terms of the monetary cost as well as (for perishable items) the potential for waste, whereas refined grains, added sugars, and fats are generally inexpensive, palatable, and readily available in low-income communities.”

The ban is stupid for two reasons. One, while the point is to make Canadians healthier, even the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation contradicted this. When they commented on the ban, they made sure to list healthy foods (none of which contain trans fats), and added that people should be limiting their intake of processed foods. So clearly removing trans fats isn’t really making the food healthier, any more than replacing fat with sugar in fat-free yogurt makes it healthier. Two, health is not the point of processed foods – pleasure is. Nobody thinks a Big Mac is going to help them stay healthy, and if they do, education is the solution, not banning an ingredient.

The most vulnerable people resort to processed foods because they last, they’re cheap and they are calorically dense. If those foods do become less tasty (and it’s distinctly possible they will), it’s not likely that the people who rely on them will switch to healthy alternatives when the reason they picked processed in the first place was financial. All this ban is doing is making those food options less palatable, without offering alternatives for those who need it. The government needs to wake up and smell the Cheetos.

What’s frustrating is this problem could be easily solved. Food companies, especially those dealing with produce, are known for their incredible amounts of food waste, throwing out literal tons of food that is nutritionally fine but doesn’t look perfect. Additionally, Canada is globally one of the worst countries when it comes to food waste. “Food gets automatically tossed, in part, due to overproduction and surplus as well as damaged products and grading specifications.”

Solution? Give that imperfect food away for free. That’s right. Take all the fruits and vegetables that were headed to the dump in the name of capitalism and aesthetic (seriously what the fuck), and give it to the people who don’t have the luxury of picking healthy options. This would both give thousands of people access to healthy choices, and still allow all of us to savour that delicious trans fat treat without sacrificing flavour.

Illustration by Fiona Dunnett
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