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Published On: Wed, Mar 11th, 2020

CSO’s warns Nigerians against eating trans fat food

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L-R: Akinbode Oluwafemi – ERA/FoEN Deputy Executive Director, Mrs Fatimah Ojo of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, Dr. Jerome Mafeni – Project Advisor, Elimination of TFA from Nigeria Food Suppl, and Board Member, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Mrs Beatrice Eluaka – Executive secretary of Civil Society Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria during the event in Abuja

… says it causes cardiovascular disease, others

By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

A Coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) against trans-fat in Nigeria, has
warned members of the public against taking any food with trans-fatty acid.

The CSOs specifically said any food made with the hydrogenated oil is dangerous to health and could cause unmeasurable harm to wellbeing of an individual.

The coalition which is made up of organizations like the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FOEN), Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Nigeria Heart Foundation, and the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), called on the Federal Government to declare an emergency in the food sector and commence massive awareness of the dangers of industrially-produced trans fats intake

Speaking at a press briefing last week to educate Nigerians about the dangers of trans-fatty food, the Deputy Executive Director of ERA/FoEN, Akinbode Oluwafemi, expressed worry
over how the food industry has taken over the market.

”In the last decade we have watched with consternation and loathed how the food industry
inundated our shores with industrially-produced transfats to the detriment of the health of
citizens of this nation. Cases of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity and other illnesses
hitherto strange to our land have suddenly become rampant among Nigerians and
particularly threatening the old who should be resting after putting their productive years
into serving the nation, and the young and vibrant generation who are supposed to be on
the drivers’ seat in nation building.

“Friends, we already have enough challenges in public health. The tobacco industry is still on
the prowl, the sugar industry is still on the prowl; we cannot add to the burden by closing
closing our eyes to the fact that what we eat now causes us illnesses and death. In 2010,
approximately 1,300 Nigerians died from causes attributable to high trans-fat intake. Unless
legislation is put in place to checkmate the food industry’s love and use of industrially-
produced trans fats, another major public health crisis is on the horizon.

“It is because of this that we want to commend NAFDAC for the Draft Fats and Oils
Regulation 2019 and the Pre- Packaged Foods, Water and lce Labeling Regulations 2019
currently on NAFDAC website for public input till March 9, 2020. We support this process
and are ready to sustain our cordial relationship with the agency to see the regulations
through to when we anticipate its Governing Council will approve them.
The issue of transfat is the story of a slow poison in our food chain. We can no longer fold
our arms and watch our lives cut short by this deadly product. The government must wake
and act, the citizens also must act by rejecting foods with transfat.

“ In the last decade, we have watched with consternation and loathed how the food industry inundated our shores with industrially-produced trans fats to the detriment of the health of citizens of this nation,”

Also speaking, Project Adviser Trans fat, Jerome Mafeni, expressed worry that ailments such as; heart disease, hypertension, blockage of the arteries, kidney disease among others could become serious medical issues for those consuming the industrialised trans-fats.

Mafeni, said that the Federal Government has already started the process by setting a two percent limit of trans-fat from total fat content in all foods.

Explaining trans fatty oil, he said the oil is being converted from the liquid state to a solid state so that it can have the capacity to withstand very deep fry and very long shelf life. Because they are industrially produced, they help industries to basically produce foods in large quantities and very efficiently. It has been going on for a while but we feel it needs to be stopped.

“These trans fatty acids have the potential to cause heart disease, stroke, hypertension, blockage of the arteries. It also has the potential to cause kidney disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancers. They can cause so many damages, so really, we don’t have any reason to have them in our food supply.”

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO), last year warned about the dangers of trans fat food.

It said the industrially produced harmful chemical known as trans fat, which is a type of unsaturated fat found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHO), is threatening the lives of Nigerians.
Consequently, WHO, tasked the Federal government to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the country’s food supply.

“Consumption of trans fat, used in baked, fried and packaged foods increases risk of cardiovascular diseases, recognised among the biggest cause of death around the world”.

The WHO, in its report last year by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), suggested that thousands of Nigerians die each year due to unnecessary exposure to the toxic chemical.

An Advocacy Coordinator with GHAI in Nigeria, Nkiru Nwadioke, said Nigeria must lead in the global campaign to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from food supply.

WHO endorsed two policies to curb trans fat consumption: banning the use of PHOs, and limiting the amount of trans fats to 2 percent of total fat in all foods.

Meanwhile, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has authority over the issue, and last year put planned regulatory updates on hold to conduct further analysis on trans fat.
It was gathered that NAFDAC and the Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, are participating in a technical working group chaired by the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, tasked by the Federal Ministry of Health to review policy options.

Industrially produced trans fat can easily be replaced with healthier alternatives, documented evidence from other countries shows.

In 2018, six countries restricted use of trans fats, while another 25 (including the European Union) adopted policies that will come into effect over the next two years.

WHO said momentum is growing for the global elimination of industrially-produced trans fat, with nearly one third of the world’s population in 28 countries now protected from its harms.

“But more than two-thirds of the world’s population lacks protection from industrial trans-fat in their food.”

With its report, entitled “Countdown to 2023,” WHO 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.

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