By Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello
Meals that contain unsaturated fats are prone to oxidation of the fats and oils. This is easily noticed by the change in the appearance, taste and smell of such foods. Consumption of such meals is life threatening and could lead to several cardiovascular illnesses.
Unfortunately, such meals are consumed regularly by Nigerians and has led to deaths of hundreds and rendering of many incapacitated.
To reduce the health crisis arising from the consumption of hydrogenated meals, in 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a global elimination of industrially produced trans fatty acids by 2023 through an initiative called the REPLACE Action Framework which serves as a guide to all countries for a policy or regulatory enactment.
REPLACE stands for Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans-fat and the landscape for required policy change; Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans-fat with healthier fats and oils; Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fat; Assess and monitor trans-fat content in the food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population; Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans-fat among policy-makers, producers, suppliers, and the public, and Enforce compliance with policies and regulations.
WHO statistics indicate that more than 36 million people die annually from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), accounting for 63% of all global deaths. Among these, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death accounting for 17.5 million deaths annually. In this category high blood pressure leads as risk factor. CVDs are disorders of the heart plus blood vessels, and they include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions.
Four out of five CVD deaths are due to heart attacks and strokes.
In Nigeria, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) in collaboration with coalition partners is leading the Transfat-free Nigeria campaign which targets the passage of relevant regulations to eliminate trans fatty acids consumption among Nigerians.
Status of Regulation
To ensure Nigeria joins the rest of the world in limiting trans fatty acids in its food chain, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health has updated two existing regulations, namely, the Fats and Oils, and Pre-packaged Ice and Water Labelling Regulation.
While progress has been made in putting together the regulations and getting the NAFDAC Council to approve it, delay in gazetting them has become costly as it allows manufacturers of foods high in trans-fats, interested only in profits, to continue the business of marketing lethal foods.
Consumers are at the receiving end as they consume oils that lead to their ill health and death in some cases.
Prolonged intake of such foods is also linked to increased risk of Alzheimer disease and certain cancers that overtime, affect insulin sensitivity and the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in individuals with diabetes in their genetic make-up.
Worried by the delay in gazette of the regulations, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Olufemi recently said that in line with the WHO directives, each country should put in place national regulation limiting trans-fats in their foods. He recommended that the federal government through the Health Ministry and NAFDAC should be more proactive and ensure that the Fats and Oils Regulation 2019 is passed into law to reduce needless deaths of citizens.
The public health community agrees with this. Further delay in making the regulations could pose a huge threat through the increased burden of non-communicable diseases in the country.
Nigerians carry enough burden for now. A public health crisis is not what we need.
Ogunleye-Bello is an award-winning Nigerian journalist, Author, and Gender Advocate. She is the Media and Communications Officer, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA)
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