Thailand's ban on artificial trans fats came into effect Wednesday, making the country the first in Asean to ban the production, import and sale of partially hydrogenated oils, as well as any food that contains them, said the Public Health Ministry.
Derived from plants through the process of hydrogenation, trans fats have been widely used since the 1950s to fry fast foods. Trans fats are also found in margarine and snacks.
Artificial trans fats have been implicated in health problems, such as heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions.
"The ban [on artificial trans fats] is aimed primarily at reducing the risk of them causing heart disease and other conditions through food consumption," he said.
The move has garnered praise from World Health Organisation, according to Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn, Minister of Public Health.
"The WHO praised the government's political will, as well as the inclusive process that it applied to prepare for the ban," he said.
"Instead of telling stakeholders what to do, the ministry listened to to all stakeholders and gave them the opportunity to prepare for the transition."
Dr Piyasakol said the WHO also praised the ministry for launching an effective public campaign to urge the private sector to take part in the government's bid to ban trans fats, and communicate its importance to the public.
The Public Health Ministry on July 13 published an announcement of the ban in the Royal Gazette. The ban came into effect 180 days from the publication date, which was Wednesday.
Over the past three months, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been working with education institutions and the food industry to help ensure a smooth transition, he said.
Food and beverage produces have already recalled products containing trans fats before the ban took effect, said Dr Tharet Karatnaiyarawiwong, secretary-general of the FDA.
As of Wednesday, food importers are required to issue a certificate assuring that their products are free of the prohibited trans fats, he said.