Do Ukrainians know about the risks of consuming trans fats? Survey findings.

On Thursday, October 21, at the Ukrinform news agency, the NGO Advocacy Center “Life” and Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine presented the results of an all-Ukrainian survey on public awareness of the dangers of trans fats conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology. Participants discussed the main findings of the study and the need to reduce the amount of trans fats in foods.

Most respondents agree that trans fats have a detrimental effect on health. Altogether 61% of the adult population in Ukraine regularly consumes products containing trans fats. At the same time, 73% of respondents, who said that such products were not part of their normal diet, eat foods with trans fats at least 1-2 days a week.

Survey data show that 74% of Ukrainians eat homemade food fried in oil at least 1-2 days a week. They also quite often consume products made using margarine and other vegetable fats (63%), and the respondents rarely eat snacks (13%) and fried food made out of the home (18%). The younger the respondents, the more often they eat products with trans fats.

“Industrially produced trans fats have no benefit to human health. Instead, their consumption is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, which rank first in the structure of main causes of death in Ukraine. Therefore, eliminating trans fats from all foods is an affordable and effective tool to improve life expectancy and quality,” said Andrii Skipalskyi, a World Health Organization specialist on risk factors for noncommunicable diseases in Ukraine.

 

82% of respondents support the legislation on limiting the content of trans fats in industrial food production.

“In 2020, the MOH adopted the Order to apply limits on the levels of trans-fatty acids that may be present in foods for consumers in stores. This level complies with the WHO recommendations and EU regulations,” said Tatiana Skapa, Acting Head of the Expert Group on Noncommunicable Disease Prevention and Healthy Living at the Directorate of Public Health and Disease Prevention of the MOH of Ukraine.

 

 

“The PHC supports clear and acceptable for 82% of the population legal restrictions on the production and consumption of trans fats, which are dangerous and lead to deterioration of health, disability and premature mortality of the population of Ukraine,” said Oleh Dudin, Chief Specialist of the Behavioral Risk Factors Unit at the Public Health Center of the MOH of Ukraine.

Consumption of artificially produced trans fats, which are contained in cakes, cookies, biscuits, packaged foods, cooking oils, and spreads, kills more than half a million people worldwide each year. In 2018, the World Health Organization released the REPLACE action package and called for the global elimination of trans fats by 2023.

“Altogether 82% of Ukrainians are aware that the consumption of foods containing trans fats leads to cardiovascular diseases, while only 38% of respondents know which food products contain trans fats. Today, 42 countries around the world already have limited the amount of trans fats in foods, and Ukraine, unfortunately, is still not included in this list,” said Lilia Olefir, Executive Director of the NGO Advocacy Center “Life”.

“The field phase of the study lasted from 18 to 27 September 2021. About 2006 interviews were conducted within computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI). The data are representative of the population of Ukraine aged 18 and older (excluding Crimea and the occupied parts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts). The sampling error with a probability of 0.95 does not exceed 2.5%. During the survey, we studied the practices of Ukrainians consuming products with trans fats. The survey showed that most Ukrainians ate foods with trans fats several times a week, and it was found a low level of awareness of which products contained trans fats,” said Victoria Zakhozha, Deputy Director of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology.

 

Legislative regulation of trans fats in food is one of the most effective ways to reduce their consumption. For example, the draft law № 5148 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Improving the Quality of Food Consumed by Children”, recently adopted in the first reading, the following regulations:

 

– Sets the maximum amount of trans-fatty acids in foods (not more than 2 grams per 100 grams of total fat contained in the food);

– Obliges market operators to provide information on the amount of trans-fatty acids in foods when supplying products to other producers;

Imposes fines for violations (40 minimum wages (as of this year) or UAH 240, 000 – for legal entities, 25 minimum wages or UAH 150, 000 – for natural persons-entrepreneurs).

 

For reference: NGO “Life” together with the Public Health Center of the MOH of Ukraine is implementing the Resolve to Save Lives initiative of Vital Strategies to support measures aimed at eliminating trans fats and harmful food additives from foods in Ukraine.

The All-Ukrainian survey titled “Opinions and Views of the Population of Ukraine on Trans Fats” was conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology in September 2021 as part of a regular Omnibus commissioned and financially supported by the WHO Country Office in Ukraine and NGO “Life” (within the Resolve to Save Lives initiative of the Vital Strategies global health organization).

 

Trans-fatty acids are a type of unsaturated fats that can be naturally or artificially produced. Natural trans-fatty acids are found in milk products and cattle meat. Artificial trans-fatty acids are most often found in processed foods that contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

Trans fats are present in the following products: spreads, products made using margarine (confectionery, baked foods, crackers, etc.), foods fried using oil (sausage rolls, chebureki, donuts, french fries, nuggets, and other deep-fried foods), snacks, sweet and glazed cheeses, cream cheese, mayonnaise, products fried using a large amount of oil, in particular at home (cutlets, pancakes, etc.).

 

Contact person: Dmytro Polonskyi, Media Coordinator of the NGO “Life”, +38 063 344 12 69, Dmytro.p@center-life.org 

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