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Notice of modification: Prohibiting the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in foods

On September 15, 2017 Health Canada published a Notice of Modification that forbids the use of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) in foods. The addition of PHOs to Part 1 of Health Canada's List of Contaminants and Other Adulterating Substances in Foods is now in effect.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) enforcement of the new requirement includes a two-year phase-in period, during which foods containing PHOs that were manufactured prior to September 17, 2018 can continue to be sold. This will be allowed in order to exhaust existing stock and avoid unnecessary food waste. However, manufacturers will not be permitted to add PHOs to foods produced on or after September 17, 2018.

PHOs are industrial trans fats that raise "bad" cholesterol levels (low-density lipoprotein) in the blood, which is a risk factor for heart disease. They also reduce the blood levels of the "good" cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein), which protect against heart disease. PHOs are found in foods such as some margarine, shortening, snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods.  Eliminating PHOs from our food supply is an important part of Canada's Healthy Eating Strategy, which aims to make the healthier choice the easier choice for all Canadians.

Questions and answers concerning the ban on PHOs

If we are currently using PHOs in making our food, how do we meet this new requirement?

As of September 17, 2018, food manufacturers must adjust their recipes, formulation, and/or method of production to eliminate PHOs as added ingredients in the food they manufacture.

What about the existing food that hasn't been shipped to stores yet?

The shelf life of typical food containing PHOs could range from several months to three years. To facilitate orderly transition in the marketplace, the CFIA is allowing foods containing PHOs that were manufactured before September 17, 2018 to continue to be sold for a period of two years. This will allow existing stock to work through distribution and be exhausted. As of September 17, 2020, no food containing PHOs remaining should be sold at retail.

Can PHO-containing processing aids be used in food manufacturing?

PHO-containing processing aids may be used in food manufacturing provided they do not result in PHOs (or the trans fatty acids they contain) being present in the food or food ingredient.  The use of PHO-containing processing aids in a way that results in PHOs, or trans fatty acids, being present in the food is not acceptable. It is important to note that industry is responsible for complying with Canadian food safety requirements.

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