Govt to fix limit of trans fat in foods

Mohammad Al Amin

16 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

The government will fix limit of trans fatty acid in food and make regulations to implement it as consumption of food items containing excessive amounts of the chemical is leading to various health complications, including stroke and heart diseases.

“Regulations will be made to keep trans fat in foods at a safer level. We’re working to this end,” Bangladesh Food Safety Authority Chairman Mohammad Mahfuzul Hoque told the daily sun on Sunday.

A survey is being conducted by the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute (NHFHRI) to find out level of trans fat in different foods in the country, he also said.

“A limit of trans fat in foods will be fixed to avoid its harmful effects after we get the survey results,” he added.

Mahfuzul further said they have already held several meetings to take steps to control excessive trans fat in foods in order to ensure safe foods for people.

Professor Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of Department of Epidemiology and Research of the NHFHRI, said, “We are conducting a study to find out trans fat level in different foods made by partially hydrogenated oil and deep fried foods.”

Mentioning that different activities of the study are now going on currently, he hoped that they will get the results of the research by three months.

SM Ishaq Ali, Director (CM) of Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), said, “If we get directives from the health ministry on limit of trans fat in foods, then we will revise the standard.”

A new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms that 8,000 people die each year in Bangladesh due to unnecessary overexposure to the toxic chemicals and trans fat.

Describing the Bangladesh situation, the WHO report said, “In 2010, approximately 8,000 deaths were attributable to high TFA [trans fatty acid] intake, and mean TFA intake was 2.4 percent of total energy intake.”

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

Bangladesh is looking at the Indian model of a progressive reduction in permissible trans fat, as opposed to a complete ban, WHO said in its report.

India is considering lowering its 5 percent trans fat limit to 2 percent by 2022, but this limit only applies to fats and oils – not foods.

“Thousands of lives are threatened by the continued and unnecessary presence of trans fat in our food. I urge the BSTI and Bangladesh Food Safety Authority to cap trans fat in all foods at 2 percent of total fat content,” said National Professor Brig (retd) Abdul Malik, founder and president of NHFHRI.

The WHO also 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.

“Excessive trans fat is harmful to the human body. If the edible oil is burnt in higher temperature and the oil is used to make foods, then the foods contain excessive harmful trans fat,” Dr Khaleda Islam, professor of Institute of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Dhaka University, told the daily sun.

According to the health experts, consumption of the trans fats in foods raises bad cholesterol levels and lower good cholesterol levels as eating the trans fat increases risk of developing heart disease and stroke. It is also associated with insulin sensitivity a higher risk of developing type 2-diabetes.

“If trans fat is removed from our foods, then many heart disease cases will be prevented. Trans fat directly is related to heart diseases,” Sohel Reza also said.

According to health scientists, trans fat or trans fatty acids are unsaturated fatty acids that come from either natural or industrial sources. Naturally occurring trans fat comes from products, derived from ruminant animals, like milk, butter, ghee, beef, mutton and are less harmful if consumed in moderation.

Industrially produced trans fats is formed during hydrogenation of vegetable oil like production of butter substitutes such as margarine and semi-solid fats with longer shelf-life, for example, daldha (vanaspati) used for producing commercially processed foods including bakery items, they said.

A situational analysis report by the NHFHRI said there is currently no national law, regulation, or court order regulating the permissible quantity of trans fat in foods or ingredients (like PHO) in Bangladesh and there is a national measure related to trans fat, but it only recommends voluntary trans fat labelling.

“Regulating trans fat in partially hydrogenated oil or processed foods in Bangladesh requires issuing or amending regulations or standards,” it said.

Mentioning recommendations for controlling trans fat in Bangladesh, the study proposed use of good policy and regulatory environment while the technical committee of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority may recommend such regulations to protect consumer health.

It also suggested consumer education to avoid intake of such foods in line with the National Plan of Action for Nutrition Two (NPAN2) recommendation.

“Trans Fatty Acid regulation should be part of the overall program of NCD control: It should be part of an overall programme of regulation of added salt, sugar, and promotion of the healthy lifestyle.”