WHO Commends Sri Lanka for Enacting Legislation on Trans-Fat to Protect Health
The World Health Organization has praised Sri Lanka for its recent legislation on trans-fat, which aims to protect health and prevent premature deaths from coronary heart disease. Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia, lauded the decision, stating that eliminating trans-fats from food supplies is a cost-effective measure with enormous health benefits.
The legislation restricts levels of industrially produced trans fats in oil and food while also banning partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of trans fats in food. Since 2018, WHO has been working with countries to eliminate trans-fat from food supplies, and high trans-fat intake has been shown to increase the risk of death from any cause by 34%, coronary heart disease deaths by 28%, and coronary heart disease by 21%.
In the WHO South-East Asia Region, almost 69% of all deaths, or 9 million deaths, are due to non-communicable diseases, with cardiovascular diseases being a major cause. WHO has been advocating for a multi-sectoral approach to address non-communicable diseases in the South-East Asia Region since 2014.
Singh emphasized that accelerating progress towards eliminating trans-fat through best-practice policies, monitoring and surveillance, and healthy oil replacements can ensure progress in efforts to address non-communicable diseases. In 2018, WHO released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide to achieve elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply by 2023, with countries like Thailand, India, and Bangladesh adopting regulations for the elimination of trans fatty acids in the food supply by 2022, while Nepal, Indonesia, Bhutan, Maldives, Myanmar, and Timor-Leste have made policy commitments.
Implementation of trans-fat regulations is part of the SEA HEARTS initiative for the South-East Asia region, which aims to accelerate action to reduce deaths due to cardiovascular diseases. The collective efforts by countries would potentially protect over 1.6 billion people from the harm caused by trans-fatty acids.