On 6 March 2019, the Ministry of Health ("MOH") announced that it is planning a ban on partially hydrogenated oils ("PHOs"). PHOs are a key source of artificial trans fat, which is currently regulated by the Sale of Food Act (Food Regulations) ("Food Regulations") in Singapore. According to the World Health Organisation ("WHO"), trans fat has no known health benefits and increases the risk of developing heart disease.
At present, regulation 78 of the Food Regulations only prohibits pre-packed edible fats and oils from containing trans fatty acids at levels exceeding 2% of total mass. This limitation was implemented in 2013 to tackle the excessive consumption of trans fat in Singapore.
The upcoming ban will build on the current Food Regulations framework and extends to PHOs found in pre-packaged foods in addition to PHOs found in prepacked fats and oils. The MOH has noted that banning PHOs will not have an adverse effect on Singaporeans' food options and cost.
The MOH will be consulting further with the industry and working with relevant agencies on the implementation details. The local food industry will also be given time to make adjustments.
This development is consistent with the global trend of countries adopting various policy approaches to tackle the issue of artificial trans fat over the last decade. In line with this, the WHO has stated that mandatory national limits on industrially produced trans fat are the most effective way to reduce trans fat consumption. In particular, the WHO has also released a set of guidelines in 2018 urging countries to eliminate artificial trans fat from the global food supply. Other countries such as the United States, Canada, and Thailand have already banned PHOs.
Seen in light of the MOH and Health Promotion Board's recent public consultation on reducing sugar intake from pre-packaged sugar-sweetened beverages, it appears that this upcoming ban is indeed part of Singapore's ongoing efforts to promote healthy lifestyles amongst its citizens.
More details can be found in the MOH's Committee of Supply 2019 Factsheet, accessible here.