USA – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has unveiled a new plan to eliminate the use of trans fats, calling for the gains made against the harmful acids in richer countries to be spread worldwide.

Industrially produced trans-fatty acids, such as margarine and some hardened vegetable fats, are popular among food producers because they are cheap and typically have a long shelf life.

According to WHO statistics, trans fats have also been blamed for more than 500,000 deaths annually, given their link to cardiovascular diseases.

The head of the UN’s health agency, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that while wealthier nations have made strides in banning trans fats, “we need to extend those efforts globally”.

WHO noted in a media release that controls against trans fats were weaker in low-and middle-income countries.

“The bottom line here is that this the beginning of the end for industrially produced trans fats,” said Tom Frieden, who heads the Resolve to Save Lives advocacy group, which has partnered with the WHO on the push to eliminate the products.

Dr. Thomas R. Frieden is the former New York City health commissioner who was also a driving force behind the trans fat ban.

Frieden told reporters that New York City’s success in banning trans fats from restaurants a decade ago proved that they “can be eliminated without changing the taste, availability or cost of great food.”

The strategy to eliminate trans fats, dubbed Replace, calls for a broad awareness and advocacy campaign as well as legislative action worldwide “to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats”.

Tedros said curbing the use of trans fats would be a centrepiece of the WHO’s efforts to cut deaths from noncommunicable diseases by a third before 2030, which is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

According to the New York Times, the W.H.O.’s effort was a low-cost way for developing countries to reduce mortality from cardiovascular disease, which claims 17 million lives a year.

“If the world replaces trans fats, people won’t taste the difference, food won’t cost more, but your heart will know the difference,” said Dr. Frieden.