Tomorrow, Friday, 16 October 2020 is World Food Day and its theme for the year is “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future”.
Industrially produced trans fat in food is one of the major causes for increased risks of heart diseases. Globally, circa 250,000 people die of heart diseases due to consumption of trans-fat-laden food.
The fact of much greater concern is that Bangladesh ranks among the 15 countries with the highest burden of deaths from trans fat-induced heart diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Trans fat in food increases the risk of heart disease deaths. Policies must be placed fixing the maximum limit of trans fat to 2% of total fat in all oils, fats, and foods.
Industrially produced transfat in food primarily comes from Partially Hydrogenated Oil or PHO, which is familiar as dalda or bonospoti in Bangladesh. PHO or dalda is commonly used in preparing fried snacks, baked goods, as well as food preparation by restaurants and street food vendors.
In a recent study, the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute have found 92 percent of sampled PHOs from Dhaka city to contain trans fat (TFA) levels above the 2 percent limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The sampled PHOs even showed a staggering high concentration of TFA, 20.9g per 100 grams, which is more than 10 times the WHO-set threshold. Bangladesh is yet to introduce any law or regulation to protect public health from the harms of TFA.
However, very recently the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has decided to promulgate regulations limiting TFA to 2% of the total fat contents of all fats, oils, and foods. In addition, the committee has already prepared a position paper to regulate TFA.
On the occasion of World Food Day, Executive Director of advocacy organization PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) Mr. ABM Zubair commented that Trans fat causes 4.41% of all the deaths from cardiovascular diseases in Bangladesh, according to WHO.
Hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved through mandatory trans fat restrictions. So, we must enact necessary policies without further delay.
In order to ensure safe and trans fat free food, PROGGA urges to speedily enact and implement policies following WHO guidelines of limiting trans fat to 2% of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods.
Furthermore, PROGGA opines that restrictions must be placed for complementary measures such as mandating TFA levels to be listed on prepackaged items’ nutrition facts panels, requiring partially-hydrogenated oils to be included on ingredients lists, requiring front-of-package labels that note when products contain TFA, and restricting the use of health claims related to TFA – such as “TFA-free” or “low in TFA”.