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WHO welcomes IFBA Action on Trans-fat Elimination Targets

• Calls FG to implement Trans-Fat Regulation in Nigeria

AdvertisementThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed satisfaction with the commitment being made by the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA) to align with the WHO target to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the global food supply by 2023.

Director-General of the global health watchdog, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the disclosure after meeting with IFBA representatives, including chief executive officers from several of the 12 companies comprising the alliance, early May 2019 to discuss actions to take to eliminate industrial trans fats, and reduce salt, sugar and saturated fats in processed foods.

The meeting also stressed the value of regulatory action on labeling and marketing, and called industry to full adherence to the WHO Code of marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes. “The commitment made by IFBA is in line with WHO’s target to eliminate industrial trans-fat from the global food supply by 2023,” Dr. Tedros said. “WHO will be monitoring the next steps to be taken by companies to help ensure the commitment is realised.”

Of particular note was the decision by IFBA members to ensure that the amount of industrial trans-fat (iTFA) in their products does not exceed 2 g of iTFA per 100 g fat/oil globally by 2023. This is in line with the WHO’s objective and recommendations of its REPLACE action package, which was developed and launched in 2018.
“Eliminating industrially-produced trans-fat is one of the simplest and most effective ways to save lives and create a healthier food supply,” added Dr. Tedros.

In line with the REPLACE initiative, WHO has called on all food producers and oil and fat manufacturers, not only IFBA members, to commit to elimination of industrial trans-fat from the global food supply.

Tran’s fat intake is responsible for over 500,000 deaths from coronary heart disease each year globally. This is coming as the WHO calls on Federal Government to implement trans fat regulation in Nigeria. Industrially produced and harmful chemical known as trans fat, which is a type of unsaturated fat found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), is threatening the lives of Nigerians.

Consequently, WHO, has tasked the Federal government to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the country’s food supply. Consumption of trans fat, used in baked, fried and packaged foods increases risk of cardiovascular diseases and recognised among the biggest cause of death around the world.

The WHO, in its newly released report by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), suggests that thousands of Nigerians die each year due to unnecessary exposure to the toxic chemical. Approximately 1,300 deaths were attributable to high trans fat intake in the country in 2010.

An Advocacy Coordinator with GHAI in Nigeria, Nkiru Nwadioke, says Nigeria must lead in the global campaign to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from food supply. “To save precious lives, the Nigerian government must take proactive steps now to limit trans fat content in our foods, or ban the harmful oils that contain this toxic chemical,” Nwadioke remarked.

According to GHAI, Nigeria does not follow international best practice when it comes to regulating the amount of harmful and unnecessary trans fat in food. WHO concluded in its first-ever annual report on global trans fat elimination, released recently at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.

Already, the WHO has endorsed two policies to curb trans fat consumption: banning the use of PHOs, and limiting the amount of trans fats to 2 percent of total fat in all foods. The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has authority over the issue, and last year put planned regulatory updates on hold to conduct further analysis on trans fat. It was gathered that NAFDAC and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, SON, are participating in a technical working group chaired by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA and tasked by the Federal Ministry of Health to review policy options.

Industrially produced trans fat can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives, documented evidence from other countries shows. In 2018, six countries restricted use of trans fats, while another 25 (including the European Union) adopted policies that will come into effect over the next two years. “Momentum is growing for the global elimination of industrially-produced trans fat, with nearly one third of the world’s population in 28 countries now protected from its harms,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“But more than two-thirds of the world’s population lacks protection from industrial trans-fat in their food.” We lost over 10,000 members in the last one year. With its report entitled “Countdown to 2023,” WHO released a set of modules to help countries implement REPLACE, the action package launched a year ago to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the food supply by 2023. Regulatory actions are key to achieving this goal.

By Sally Ahmed with Agency Report

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