The Singapore Government announced on June 6 that as part of its ongoing efforts to create a healthier environment for Singaporeans, will introduce a ban on partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) as an ingredient in all foods, including fats, oils, and pre-packaged foods sold in Singapore, whether manufactured locally or imported, from June 2021.
Singapore’s approach to artificial trans fat is aligned with the World Health Organization’s recommendation as well as international practices. This measure will replace the current 2% limit on the amount of trans fat content in fats and oils sold in Singapore, which has helped to reduce the average daily trans fat intake among Singaporeans from 2.1g in 2010 to 1.0g in 2018.
Trans Fat – A Serious Health Concern
The key source of trans fat in our diets is artificial trans fat in the form of PHOs, which is formed during partial hydrogenation, an industrial process which converts liquid oil to semi-solid fats to increase the shelf-life of products. PHOs is commonly found in oils, fats, and pre-packaged products including snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads. It is estimated that about 10% of these categories of food in Singapore currently contain PHOs.
Trans fat consumption is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases. There is no safe level of consumption of trans fat. A meta-analysis of four prospective cohort studies involving nearly 140,000 subjects found that a four-grams increase in daily trans fat intake was associated with a 23% increase in incidence of cardiovascular disease.
Implementation and Enforcement
The ban will take effect from June 2021, to allow the industry time to reformulate their products or find new product sources. From June 2021, food manufacturers are required to ensure that PHOs are not used in their manufacturing process, while retailers and importers are required to ensure that their range of products does not include PHO as an ingredient. All food manufacturers, retailers and importers will continue to be mandated to list the ingredients on the packaging of their products sold in Singapore.
The industry will be provided with guidelines to facilitate a smooth transition, and to ensure compliance to the ban. Enterprise Singapore will also support food companies with an enterprise development grant for product reformulation.
Market surveillance will be conducted regularly to ensure the industry’s compliance to the ban. The Food Regulations under the Sale of Food Act will be amended to legislate the ban on PHOs.
To support the government’s efforts to create a healthier food environment for Singaporeans, six companies have pledged their commitment to ensure that their products are PHO-free by June 2020 ‒ one year ahead of the effective date of the ban. The six pledgers account for 50% of the market share across the four high-risk food categories of snacks, baked goods, prepared meals and fat spreads. The six companies, which includes manufacturers and retailers, are:
1. Gardenia Foods (S) Pte Ltd 2. Nestle Singapore (Pte) Ltd 3. NTUC FairPrice Co-Operative 4. Prime Supermarket Ltd 5. Sheng Siong Group Pte Ltd 6. Sunshine Bakeries
Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said that it welcomes more manufacturers, importers, and retailers to commit to the pledge. The Republic’s Health Promotion Board (HPB) will also conduct public education campaigns to raise consumer awareness of the harms of trans fat, and how to reduce trans fat intake.