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Supermarkets cut out trans fats

By James Knowles , 01-Nov-2006

British supermarkets are reacting to mounting fears over trans fats in foods, pledging to remove them from own branded products by the end of the year.

Sainsbury's got the ball rolling in August, announcing the removal of trans fats by 1 January 2007. Marks and Spencer have already eliminated them and Asda will follow suit by spring next year. Tesco will complete the process by the end of the year, a spokesperson told FoodanddrinkEurope.

Waitrose are set to follow suit by the close of the year. "This cut off date underlines our commitment to improving the nutritional profile of our products", said Moira Howie, nutritionist at Waitrose.

Trans fats first came into the public eye when Kraft had to reformulate its Oreo cookies after a lawsuit against trans fat levels in 2003. As a result trans fats have had a higher public profile and food retailers now have to react to growing consumer trends towards health.

KFC is the latest retailer to announce plans to axe the use of trans fats, altering its 50 year old Colonel Sanders' 50 year fried recipe, in cooking in all of its US restaurants. The fast food chain has not confirmed a date for the removal in its UK branches.

"KFC UK is committed to removing trans fats from all its products. KFC UK has been actively been working on an alternative cooking oil. We are in the final stages of consumer acceptance testing which, if successful, would lead to a roll out as soon as possible," said a spokeswoman for KFC UK.

Trans fatty acids - also known as trans fats - are formed when liquid vegetable oils are partially hydrogenated or 'hardened' for use as spreads such as margarine, cooking fats for deep frying and shortening for baking. Foods high in trans or saturated fatty acids increase blood cholesterol levels, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease.