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Waitrose - going trans-free

On 23 November 2005 UK supermarket chain Waitrose made its strongest statement yet on hydrogenated oil, effectively committing itself to the total removal of hydrogenated oil from its own-brand products. Although no time frame is specified, it is clear that Waitrose is making active progress towards this objective. Here is the statement in full:

It has been our aim since the beginning of 2004 to remove hydrogenated vegetable oil in our current assortment of products in order to improve the nutritional profile. This is being incorporated through product development and recipe redevelopment as a phased programme across Waitrose products.

You will be pleased to hear that the programme is progressing well, for example in September 2005 we relaunched Waitrose biscuits without hydrogenated vegetable oil. We have also undertaken considerable work on removing hydrogenated vegetable oil in our ready meals, as well as our pies and quiches.

It is our aim to take account of all customer concerns and we wish to reassure you that Waitrose are constantly reviewing and updating our products in order to take account of the latest nutritional recommendations.

It now appears that the UK retail sector is finally turning against hydrogenated oil, at least in its own brand products.

Earlier statments

Our first Waitrose statement of spring 2004.

"At Waitrose we strive to keep abreast of science of any scientific developments that can improve the quality of our products. We are guided by the Government on food safety and labelling issues and do not consider the amount of hydrogenated fats in our products as inappropriate. Should the guidance from the Government alter or the technology available provide us with suitable alternatives then please be assured that we would act quickly to minimise the levels of hydrogenated fat in selected products whilst maintaining the quality and taste you expect from Waitrose products.

In general foods do not contain a single type of fat but a mixture of saturated and unsaturated fats, these are clearly labelled in the ingredients and nutrition panel. Hydrogenated vegetable oil is not easily removed without loss of functional attributes. For example when making cakes and biscuits you require a solid fat to obtain the right texture and mouth feel for the finished product, this cannot be achieved using liquid fat. Hydrogenated fats also occur in nature and are present in meat and dairy products."

Waitrose statement of July 2004, in which the company commits to reducing / removing hydrogenated fats in its products.

In the UK we currently consume about half the level of hydrogenated fats than the USA population and we would not wish to increase them. Nutritionists across the UK always recommend that we should limit our intake of pastry foods per se including cakes and biscuits as part of a varied and balanced diet. Too much fat of any kind is not good for long term health.

We have already instigated work with our major biscuit suppliers for the removal of hydrogenated fats and we are in the process of running down our existing packaging and our new packaging will reflect the revised recipe.

It is our aim to reduce the level of hydrogenated fats in our current assortment of products in order to offer products with an improved nutritional profile. Our suppliers are working with us to help achieve these aims.

Please be reassured that Waitrose are constantly reviewing and updating all products and we are embarking on programme to avoid hydrogenated fats in new product development. Our technical teams keep abreast of any new scientific developments and technologies that will allow our suppliers to use alternative fats without any lose of eating quality.

I trust this information reassures you that we do take these issues seriously taking full account of press coverage and the information in the scientific arena.

Background

Part of the John Lewis partnership, Waitrose is a relatively small player in the British supermarket stakes. However it has a good reputation for quality, supply of organic produce, and similar matters.

The Waitrose website is also notable in that it makes specific mention of trans fats, showing not only an awareness of the issue, but also a willingness to discuss it. Thus under "What will increase your risk [of cardiovascular disease]" is listed "A diet high in trans fats". [see here].

It also has a progressive sounding health policy:

We aim to make it as simple as possible for you to eat healthily by having a wide choice of foods in all our shops and including an easy-reference nutrition panel on most Waitrose products. This tells you how much energy, protein, fat, fibre, sodium (salt), sugar and saturated fat is present in 100g or 100ml and in a typical serving of that food. The calorie, fat and salt per serving are highlighted at the bottom of many panels. Why not check out your healthy diet by adding up your calorie, fat and salt intake over one day and comparing this with the Guideline Daily Amount?

Contact

Website: www.waitrose.com.
Email: customer_service@waitrose.co.uk
Post: Waitrose Customer Service Department, Waitrose Limited, Doncastle Road, Bracknell, Berkshire RG12 8YA.
Freephone: 0800 188 884

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