No harmful trans fats found in margarines and fat spreads


<p>Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira has examined the composition of the margarines and fat spreads on the market. The levels of trans fats in the samples were a special focus of attention. The levels of trans fats in food is being discussed in the EU and some countries have already set limits for them, as trans fats have been found to be harmful to health. In this study, the situation with spreadable margarines and fat spreads on the Finnish market was surveyed.</p>

The fat content was measured in the samples and the fatty acid composition was determined. In all of the examined products, the amount of trans fats was very low, and the amounts detected are of no significance to health. In 55 per cent of the 18 samples, trans fats were not detected at all.

Differences were detected in the fatty acid compositions of the samples examined
The fat content of the margarines and fat spreads examined varied between 29 – 80 per cent. Of the whole fat content, the share of saturated or hard fat varied between 20 – 52 per cent. Hard fat is known as a risk factor for heart and vascular disease. Trans fats are unsaturated fats, but behave like saturated fats and are therefore classified as hard fats. The amount of trans fats was very low in all of the examined samples; the highest measured amount was only 0.5 g/100 g of the product. No limit has been set in the EU for trans fats, though some member states have done so. It is not compulsory to declare it in the markings on the packaging. According to this study, trans fats are not a problem with the margarines and fat spreads on the Finnish market.

Essential fatty acids are fats that are necessary for balanced nutrition and human health. These fatty acids (linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid) have to come from the food, as the body can not produce these by itself. There was a significant difference between the content of essential fatty acids in the products examined: 3.5 – 28.8 g/100g of the product. The essential fatty acid content was generally higher in fattier products. There was no statistical difference as to the composition of fatty acids between lighter and fattier products.

The study is connected to Evira’s scientific research project
In the research project the fatty acid composition of different “light” products is examined. The fatty acid profile of light products is compared to the profile of regular fat products. The project will continue with new product groups, such as ice creams made with vegetable fats. The other goal of the project is to develop a method of analysis of fatty acids. Fatty acids are made into volatile DMOX derivatives, which will be separated by gas chromatography. The double bond in the carbon chain and the conformation will be determined more precisely than previously by mass selective detection.

The leader of the research project is Professor Kimmo Peltonen and Researcher in charge of the project is Tiina Ritvanen. The project is estimated to continue until 2011.

Read more on the trans fats study:
Research on animal diseases and food » Scientific Research » Current research projects » Trans fatty acids in light products

Acquaint yourself also with trans fatty acids in nutrition and on the markings of the packaging:
Food » Control and entrepreneurs » Nutrition labelling » Trans-fatty acids

Read more on the nutritional recommendations:
National Nutrition Council (2005): Suomalaiset ravitsemussuositukset - ravinto ja liikunta tasapainoon (only in Finnish)

Also acquaint yourself with the National Nutrition Council

For more information, please contact:
trans fats research: Researcher Tiina Ritvanen,
Chemistry and Toxicology Research Unit, tiina.ritvanen, tel. 02077 24447
The definition of fat spreads and markings on the packaging: Senior Officer Tytti Itkonen,
Product Safety Unit, tytti.itkonen, p. 02077 24296


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