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BMJ Open. 2012; 2(5): e000859.
Published online 2012 September 14. doi:  10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000859
PMCID: PMC3467660

A trans European Union difference in the decline in trans fatty acids in popular foods: a market basket investigation



To minimise the intake of industrial trans fatty acids (I-TFA) some countries have introduced labelling, while others have introduced legislative limits on the content of I-TFA in food. However, most countries still rely on food producers to voluntarily reduce the I-TFA content in food. The objective of the present study was to investigate the efficiency of these strategies in the EU.


The potential consumption of I-TFA was assessed in a market basket investigation by analysing the I-TFA content in popular foods.


A standardised purchase methodology was used in 16 EU countries in 2005 and again in 2009.


Seventy servings of French fries and chicken nuggets, 90 packages of microwave popcorn, and 442 samples of biscuits/cakes/wafers with ‘partially hydrogenated vegetable fat’ listed high on the list of ingredients were analysed. A high-trans menu was defined as a large serving of French fries and nuggets, 100 g of microwave popcorn and 100 g of biscuits/wafers/cakes.


In 2005, a high-trans menu provided above 30 g of I-TFA in five EU countries in Eastern Europe and 20–30 g in eight EU countries in Western Europe. In 2009 the values in Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic remained high between 10 and 20 g, whereas they were less than 2 g in Germany, France and the UK.


In 2009 contents of I-TFA in popular foods in Western Europe appear low but, in spite of some reduction, still high in Eastern European EU countries. These findings suggest that millions of people in the EU still consume I-TFA in amounts that substantially increase their risk of coronary heart disease.

Keywords: Nutrition & Dietetics, Preventive Medicine

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