Two NGOs on anti-trans fats have called on the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders to expedite actions toward enacting relevant regulations for the control and elimination of trans fat from the country’s food system.
The NGOs, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), made the call on Friday in Abuja, while commemorating the 2020 World Food Day.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the Day is celebrated annually on Oct. 16, to remind government and relevant stakeholders of the global progress made toward zero hunger and highlights of the world’s commitment to ending world hunger by 2030.
The theme for this year’s celebration is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together”.
Dr Jerome Mafeni, the NHED Country Technical Lead and Project Adviser for Trans Fats elimination, defined trans fats as food that is not free of toxic chemicals such as trans fatty acids.
“Trans fats are fats produced from the industrial process of hydrogenation, whereby molecular hydrogen (H2) is added to vegetable oil, converting liquid fat to a semi-solid and stable fat that has long shelf life.
“Food products containing unsaturated fats are susceptible to rancidity with attendant unpleasant taste and odour as a manifestation of their short shelf life.
“Trans fats have been linked to increases in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death.
“According to new estimates by the World Health Organization, over 250, 000 persons die yearly resulting from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats,” Mafeni explained.
According to him, this statistic has led to the call for the global elimination of industrially produced trans-fat by 2023.
Mafeni urged the Ministry of Health and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to address the harmful effects of trans fats on the consumers particularly vulnerable people.
“I will need to reiterate that this is no ordinary World Food Day, and we need anything but ordinary action.
“We need all the three tiers of government and relevant stakeholders to spread the call for action through activities and events to sensitise Nigerians on the dangers of trans fats.
“And there is need for the Nigerian government through NAFDAC, the Ministry of Health and other relevant authorities to expedite actions that have already commenced towards enacting relevant regulations for the control and elimination of trans fat from the country’s food system,” he said.
Similarly, Executive Director of CAPPA, Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that commemoration of the Day should push the Nigerian government to action in stemming food-induced cardiovascular illnesses.
Oluwafemi, who was represented by CAPPA Director of Programme, Mr Philip Jakpor, said the elimination of trans fats is imperative to the protection of health and saving lives.
He recalled that in 2018, the World Health Organisation (WHO) while unveiling its ‘REPLACE’ initiative, called on governments to remove trans-fat from food supplies in a bid to have a healthy population.
“WHO particularly noted that eliminating trans fats is key to protecting health and saving lives.
“It estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease,” Oluwafemi said.
Edited By: Kevin Okunzuwa/Razak Owolabi