Mr. Speaker, I would like to once again reiterate my support for the intent of the motion. As we move forward as a society and we find things that are harmful to us, it is important to take the time to debate the issues, to figure out what it is that we can do to make our food supply and those kinds of things safer. It is with that intent that I support the notion that as a government we should be looking at ways to reduce trans fats in some of the food products.
Where I have a bit of a challenge and where I see that the motion is a little vague on details is in terms of the implementation strategy. Even though I think that the motion makes some sense in terms of being able to discuss the awareness of trans fats and looking at ways we can reduce them, we need to look at how exactly we are going to do that. It is the details which sometimes cause us a challenge in terms of how that happens.
My colleague talked about saturated fats and trans fats. The motion talks about looking at trying to eliminate processed trans fats. It talks about how processed trans fats are harmful and more likely to cause heart disease than saturated fats. We could go back to what happened in the 1970s and 1980s with the whole issue of saturated fats. We ended up going with trans fats, and here we are some 15 to 20 years later talking about this issue and once again looking for a very quick resolution.
Finding the real answer to this problem of taking out trans fats is going to take some time. It is not going to happen overnight. There is going to be further research. As colleagues on both sides have said, that process is in place right now. People are looking at alternative forms, whether it be through canola or other fats. However, if we just rush from one thing to the next, we may be in the same situation 10 years from now, not having fully tested it and not having looked at ways to ensure that trans fats have been properly replaced with something more feasible.
Not only do we need to identify those products, but we need to make sure there is a sustainable supply. The member on the other side talked about New York Fries, one of the companies that has been able to successfully do this. The challenge with some of the larger companies is being able to find that sustainable supply for the kind of demand that they have across the border. Certainly New York Fries is a smaller company that has been able to harness some of the smaller products that are available.
If we are going to really make this happen in a meaningful way, we need to look at the long term effects and availability, and make sure that we are able to harvest this product in Canada. It is important to realize that when we replace these trans fats, we will have ended up just complicating the problem and not fixing it for a generation.
Trans fatty acids are like saturated fatty acids, or LDCs or bad cholesterol levels in the blood. Trans fatty acids, unlike saturated fatty acids, also reduce the blood levels of HDL, or the good cholesterol, further increasing the risk of coronary heart disease.
An opinion published by the scientific panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies, for the European Food Safety Authority in September 2004 concluded that at equivalent dietary levels, the effects of trans fatty acids on heart health may be greater than that of saturated fatty acids. However the current intakes of trans fatty acids are generally more than tenfold lower than those of saturated fatty acids whose intakes in many European countries exceeded the dietary recommendations. The opinion also reports that the available evidence does not provide a definitive answer to the question of whether TFAs have an effect on the LDLC different to a mixture of saturated fatty acids on a gram per gram basis.
In the whole process of trans fats there is no evidence of a difference in the health impacts of an industrially produced trans fat and naturally occurring fats. In addition, according to the opinion published by the scientific panel on dietary products, nutrition and allergies for the European Food Safety Authority in September 2004, there are no methods of analysis applicable to the wide range of foods that can be distinguished between TFAs which are naturally present in foods, ruminant products, and those formed during the processing of fats, oils and foods.
What I am saying is that there are natural fats that occur in things as well as the trans fats and one of the challenges is trying to distinguish between the two. In order to effectively figure out how to reduce some of these things, one of the first steps is to make sure that we are able to measure that.
Members of the scientific panel of the Heart and Stroke Foundation also expressed concerns about the exclusion of natural trans fats in legislation since there is no feasible method to detect the differences between natural and man-made fats. Some felt the legislation would lack credibility if it did not include natural trans fats, that it would be unfair for some companies because it would create an uneven commercial playing field. It is very important to highlight the need to be able to distinguish between the two.
I cannot emphasize this enough. If we are going to look at changing what we are providing in our products, we need to look at the whole supply. I mentioned that before but I think it is critical.
We have talked about some other forums coming onside but we are not quite up to speed in terms of what we are able to transfer out at this point in time. We need to be mindful that we are not just looking at one industry but we are looking at all our supply. A whole range of suppliers needs to be in the loop as far as this goes.
I appreciate the intent of the motion in that it talks about a multi-stakeholder consultation process. That will be very important as we move this forward.
Members should understand that a huge number of stakeholders are involved, whether they be in the health sector or people involved in the food process. There are food service operators and food manufacturers who are working closely right now to develop these things. Some of the companies were mentioned earlier. We talked about some food manufacturers and food service companies that have made progress in the transition to trans free products, such as New York Fries which says it has removed all the trans from its fries. As well, Pizza Pizza has removed trans fats from its pizza dough.
We need to be mindful that finding a suitable replacement for oils that contain trans fats is a significant challenge. This is not something that can be done overnight. Also, we need to understand that in some cases alternative oils also present health risks, such as an increased polymerization of fat if the polyunsaturated oils are used for frying. Some replacement oils are only available in limited supply. I think we touched on that earlier.
Some TFA alternatives remain cost prohibitive while others cannot be easily substituted without changing the products, their taste, texture and shelf life. We need to realize that it does take time to develop and test these new products. In addition to ensuring the alternative products provide the same flavour, texture, taste and structure characteristics, food companies and food service operators must be able to secure a reliable supply of the ingredient that is being substituted.
In conclusion, we support the intent of the motion but we need to be very mindful of the consequences on the whole food chain.