Food producers urged to remove 'toxic' trans-fats from their goods
Food producers in the Westcountry are being urged to ditch an additive which experts blame for hundreds of premature deaths every year.
Health chiefs will tomorrow throw a spotlight on trans-fats, a substance used widely in processed foods, which cannot be digested and, experts say, clogs up arteries.
The campaign urging a ban will kick off at the pioneering Cornwall Healthy Weight Conference being staged at the Eden Project tomorrow which aims to tackle obesity.
Felicity Owen, director of public health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said the message was simple.
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"We want to help people say no to these fats and take them out of their diets and so our campaign will focus on raising awareness of them and encouraging local food producers to take them out of their ingredients," she said.
Trans-fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products however, artificial trans-fats are used widely in processed foods such as cakes, biscuits and fast food.
Sometimes labelled as hydrogenated fats, the substance has been labelled "toxic" by the World Health Organisation.
When eaten, the digestive system is unable to break trans-fats down and they remain in the body, clogging up arteries and raising levels of bad cholesterol, it says.
Trans-fats have zero nutritional value and are banned altogether in parts of the USA and Europe. In the UK, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence two years ago called for the Government to follow suit.
The first local food producers to sign up to the campaign will be handed awards at tomorrow's conference.
According to NHS Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, eradicating trans-fats from the diet could prevent hundreds of premature deaths every year.
Nationally, the British Medical Journal estimates that eradicating trans-fats would prevent 27,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.
In Cornwall obesity rates are mushrooming, with one in three children and three in every five adults in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are overweight or obese.
In Devon it is estimated that 152,905 of the adult population are obese.
Dr Virginia Pearson, Devon's director of public health, said the issue of trans-fats and obesity is one that must be tackled.
"The campaign being run by Cornwall NHT helps highlight one of the very significant factors currently affecting the health of our population, and it is vital that we tackle the increasing obesity problem before it gets worse."
She added that health organisations were working together on a number of initiatives.