Limiting Trans fat in Foods

Delay in forming policy puts lives at risk: Experts

Mohammad Al Amin

2 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

National Food Safety Day is being observed all over the country today when a number of the country’s people have been suffering from cardiac complications due to excessive use of trans-fat in foods.

Though the government is working on formulating a policy to check industrially produced trans fat in all foods and partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), a delay in developing policy and its implementation may claim more lives, health experts warned.

“A delay of making policy to limit excessive use of trans fat in foods may cause more deaths. If trans-fat is removed from our foods, many cases of heart diseases can be prevented,” Prof Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of Department of Epidemiology and Research of National Heart Foundation Hospital & Research Institute (NHFHRI), told the daily sun.

Former Additional Health Secretary and Bangladesh Country Lead of Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) Muhammad Ruhul Quddus said, “We urge the government to speed up the initiative and finalise the policy as early as possible.”

WHO has set a global target of eliminating industrially produced trans-fatty acids from the food supply chain by 2023. Member countries have to lower the limit of trans fat in foods to 2 per cent.

Talking to daily sun, Monzur Morshed Ahmed, chief of the Technical Committee on Trans Fats and a member of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), said, “We hope we can formulate the policy by the WHO deadline. We will talk to stakeholders about the policy and then we can decide what to do in this regard.”

He said they are not conducting any campaign against using the trans-fat in foods before            

discussing the issue with the stakeholders. “Now we are just talking about trans fat in various meetings, rallies and seminars.” Monzur Morshed further said it may take six months or more to complete all the process.

ABM Zubair, Executive Director of research and advocacy organization PROGGA, said, "Everyone has the right to safe food. We have learned that the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority is about to promulgate regulatory policies on trans fat. This policy needs to be finalized and implemented at the soonest possible time."

The BFSA sources said it has decided to make regulations limiting trans fat to 2 per cent of the total fat contents of all fats, oils and foods as the Technical Committee on Trans Fats formed by the BFSA in a meeting in November last year decided in principle to formulate the policy.

Health experts said the industrially-produced trans fat, known as dalda or bonospoti ghee in local markets, is a silent toxic killer while the high level trans fat in food increases bad cholesterol (LDL) and reduces good cholesterol (HDL) in human body.

In its report titled “WHO Report on Global Trans Fat Elimination 2020” published on September 9, 2020, the World Health Organization said 15 countries, including Bangladesh, account for approximately two-thirds of the worldwide deaths linked to trans fat intake.

A study of the NHFHRI has found that about 92 percent of sampled PHO brands in Dhaka city were containing trans-fatty acid (TFA) at a much higher level than the 2 per cent one set by WHO.

The WHO report of 2020 has stated that owing to trans fat acid consumption, 5,776 people die from heart diseases each year in Bangladesh.