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A recent decision by the European Parliament plans the introduction of mandatory limits for trans fatty acids (TFA) in foods. The intention of the members of parliament is for the EU Commission to set a Europe-wide limit within two years. Parliament justifies this approach with the argument that the consumption of trans fatty acids increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Food manufacturers and retailers should take action now and submit their products to a laboratory analysis. This allows them to determine whether their products are affected by the new regulations.

Trans fats or trans fatty acids are certain types of unsaturated fatty acids that can occur naturally or through technological processes in food fats. They are found, for example, in dairy products and refined, in particular hardened (hydrogenated) vegetable oils and fats. They are also used during heating or storage of oils, fats and fatty foods. Example products which may exhibit high levels of trans-fatty acids are:

  • Cooking oils and fats
  • Convenience foods
  • Margarine used in pastry
  • Pre-packaged bakery products, cakes, biscuits and waffles
  • Microwave popcorn
  • Deep-fried foods
  • Soups and sauces

Observe the limit values

In Denmark there has been a statutory upper limit for trans-fatty acids since 2003. There, the TFA content in oils and fats is limited to a maximum of two percent. Similar limits apply since 2009 in Austria, since 2013 in Hungary and since 2015 in Latvia. And there are also corresponding regulations in the USA. Manufacturers have been required to state the content of trans-fatty acids on all food packaging for several years. In June 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also concluded that hardened oils could be considered "generally not safe". In the USA, their use in foodstuffs is to be prohibited from June 2018.

In many companies, the laboratory-based detection of trans fatty acids in foods is already part of their regular quality assurance. It is particularly important for export and international declarations. But also producers who have not yet been subject to legal regulations should bear this parameter in mind. As with the forthcoming limits it may be required to switch manufacturing processes, to change formulas or replace suppliers.

Order placement for fatty acid analysis

The laboratories of the SGS offer manufacturers and retailers of food a reliable analysis for the detection of trans fatty acids. Standardized, saturated, mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids are also determined by means of gas chromatography. Further investigations such as for example the omega fatty acids can be added on request. Please feel free to contact us.


SGS Germany GmbH
Rödingsmarkt 16
D-20459 Hamburg
t +49 40 30101 695