Health Canada has rejected the advice of its own advisory panel of food experts to renew monitoring of trans-fat levels in processed foods and send a "strong signal" to companies that regulations are on the table if levels don't drop.
The department's Food Expert Advisory Committee made the recommendations in June 2011 after Health Canada asked its external advisers on food policy about how best to manage trans-fat levels in the Canadian food supply.
At the time, departmental officials were revisiting the issue of trans fats after Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq quietly killed a plan drafted in December 2009 to bring in regulations to limit trans-fat levels in processed foods.
Aglukkaq made the decision even though senior officials had briefed her on a cost-benefit analysis commissioned by Health Canada showing a "significant net benefit to Canadian society" of up to $9 billion over 20 years if trans-fat caps were imposed.
Trans fats, created by pumping hydrogen into liquid oil at an elevated temperature, raise the levels of low-density lipoprotein or "bad" cholesterol in the body and can lead to clogged arteries and heart disease.
The latest development on the trans fat file comes after Aglukkaq prematurely disbanded her much-touted expert panel on sodium in December 2010. The Sodium Working Group was created in 2007 and had unveiled a plan in July 2010 to track, over the next five years, whether companies were reducing the level of salt in processed foods.