Glory Ife and Chisom Ebih
The Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) has urged the Nigerian government to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat from the country’s food supply, as a newly released report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that thousands of Nigerians die each year due to unnecessary exposure to the toxic chemicals.
According to an Advocacy Coordinator with GHAI in Nigeria, Nkiru Nwadioke, “Nigeria must lead in the global campaign to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat from our food supply. To save precious lives, the Nigerian government must take proactive steps now to limit trans-fat content in our foods, or ban the harmful oils that contain this toxic chemical.
“Industrially produced trans-fat is a harmful chemical found in partially hydrogenated oils (PHO) that may be used in baked, fried and packaged foods. Trans-fat consumption increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, the biggest cause of death around the world. Approximately 1,300 deaths were attributable to high trans-fat intake in Nigeria in 2010, according to WHO.”
She said Nigeria does not follow international best practice when it comes to regulating the amount of harmful and unnecessary trans-fat in food.
According to her, “WHO has endorsed two policies to curb trans-fat consumption: banning the use of PHOs, and limiting the amount of trans-fat to two per cent of total fat in all foods. 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.
“NAFDAC and the Standards Organisation of Nigeria are participating in a technical working group chaired by the Nigerian Medical Association that has been 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.”
Nwadioke said six countries restricted use of the toxic chemical last year, while another 25 (including the European Union) adopted policies that will come into effect over the next two years.
On his part, WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 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.”