Healthy Schools: Healthy Food

Healthy Food for Healthy Schools

Trans Fat Standards Regulation – Questions and Answers

Q. Why are you dropping trans fat from food and beverages sold in schools?

A. Research shows that consuming trans fats can increase levels of bad cholesterol and decrease levels of good cholesterol in the blood. This can raise the risk of developing heart disease.

Dropping trans fat from food and beverages sold in elementary and secondaryschools will provide more nutritious options for students and help to improve the health of young people. When students are healthy, they are also more likely to feel energetic and ready to learn.

Q. What are the limits for trans fat in food and beverages sold in schools?

A. The trans fat content in vegetable oil and soft, spreadable margarine must not exceed 2% of the total fat content.

For all other food, beverages and ingredients, the trans fat content must not exceed 5% of the total fat content.

The limits are consistent with the recommendations in the Trans Fat Task Force report, Transforming the Food Supply. Ontario food industry and nutrition groups recommended that the province adopt the same limits contained in the task force's report.

Q. Why are you exempting meat and dairy products ? Don't they have trans fat in them too?

A. Dairy products and some meat like beef and lamb contain low levels of naturally occurring trans fat (generally 2-5% of fat content). Research shows that trans fat from these sources do not appear to have harmful effects.

Q. Are the limits only applicable to food and beverages sold in school cafeterias?

A. No. The limits apply to all food and beverages sold in schools for schoolpurposes. This includes cafeterias, tuck shops, canteens and vending machines. The limits do not apply to food that students bring from home to eat at school, and some special event days maybe exempted from the trans fat limits.

Q. What qualifies as a special event day?

A. The school principal can choose up to 10 days in the school year as special event days exempt from the trans fat limits (or a number fewer than 10 as determined by the school board). The principal must consult with the school council to determine which events, if any, to exempt. Principals are encouraged to also consult with their students in making these decisions.

Q. Will outside groups that use the school in the evening or on the weekend have to meet the new requirements?

A. No. The limits only applyto food and beverages sold to persons who are in schools for school purposes. Food offered by daycares or organizations using school space will not have to meet the new requirements.

Q. Will this change increase the cost of food sold in schools?

A. Healthier food does not necessarily cost more.

A study done by the University of Minnesota found that more nutritious lunches don't necessarily cost more to produce. It also found that school lunch sales don't decline because healthier meals are served.

Q. What role do parents play in their child's eating habits?

A. Parents have the main responsibility for shaping their children's attitudes and behaviours about eating. Parents can encourage healthy behaviours at home by being role models and leading an active and healthy lifestyle.

The trans fat limits do not apply to food that students bring from home to eat at school. However, parents are encouraged to make sure their children's packed lunches include nutritious options. Parents can learn more about packing a healthy lunch at the EatRight Ontario website.

Parents can also work with their school council to promote a healthy school community. The Ministry of Education healthy schools website provides ideas to help parents contribute to a healthy school community.

Q. Are there any industry leaders who have already dropped trans fat from their products?

A. Yes,many companies have dropped trans fat from their products. These include several of Canada's leading baked goods and snack food providers.

For information about the trans fat content of a wide variety of pre-packaged and restaurant foods, visit Health Canada's Trans Fat Monitoring Program's website.

Q. When does this change take effect?

A. As of September 1, 2008, all food and beverages sold in schools for school purposes must comply with the trans fat limits.

Q. Are the trans fat limits applicable to food and beverages sold in secondary school vending machines?

A. Yes. The trans fat limits apply to all food and beverages sold in elementary and secondary schools for schoolpurposes. This includes cafeterias, tuck shops, canteens and vending machines. The limits do not apply to food that students bring from home, and some special event days maybe exempted from the trans fat limits.

Q. Does the change apply to private schools?

A. No. The requirement to drop trans fat applies to food and beverages sold in publicly funded schools. However, the government encourages private schools to promote a healthy learning environment by dropping trans fat from food and beverages sold in private schools.

For further information about healthy food options, you can:

  • Visit EatRight Ontario for healthy eating tips, nutrition information and to have nutrition-related questions answered by a registered dietitian.
  • Call EatRight Ontario's toll-free phone number 1-877-510-5102 to speak with a registered dietitian