No alternative to trans-fat-free food to safeguard public health: speakers

No alternative to trans-fat-free food to safeguard public health: speakers

Mentioning that excessive amount of trans fat in food is unsafe and remains one of the leading risk factors for various non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, speakers at a webinar today said ensuring food safety is crucial for protecting public health.

They were speaking at a webinar titled “Trans-fat-free Safe Food to Safeguard Public Health and the Way Forward”, organised by research and advocacy organisation PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) with support from Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) on the occasion of National Food Safety Day.

The day will be observed this year under the theme “Shastho, Pushti o Shomriddhi Chai, Nirapod Khadder Bikolpo Nai” (Health, Nutrition and Prosperity, Safe Food Remains the Only Key).

Bangladesh ranks among the countries with the highest number of deaths from trans-fat induced heart diseases. Although the government has passed the “Controlling Trans-Fatty Acid in Foodstuffs Regulation 2021”, its implementation has not commenced in full swing yet. Speedy implementation of the trans-fat limiting regulation is essential.

The main source of trans fat is Partially Hydrogenated Oil (PHO), which is also known as Dalda or Banaspati Ghee. Generally, PHO or dalda is used in preparing baked foods, processed foods, and fried snacks, as well as in food preparation by restaurants and street food vendors.

Dr Nazma Shaheen, professor at Institute of Nutrition and Food Science of Dhaka University said, “Excessive amount of trans fats were found in bottled soybean oil in a recent study. To regulate the amount of trans fat in food items, the capacity of BFSA, BSTI and other relevant authorities must be increased. We have already undertaken research initiatives to identify the ways to regulate the level of trans fat in food.”

Dr Mohammad Mostafa, member (Public Health and Nutrition), Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), said, “We have prioritised the reduction of trans fats in edible oil. We are hopeful about finding a solution soon after discussing it with the relevant stakeholders.”

Mustak Hassan Md Iftekhar, Secretary General and CEO of Bangladesh Food Safety Foundation (BFSF) and Founder Chairman of Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) said, “In order to expedite the implementation of the regulations, concerned traders, government and non-government organisations must work together.”

Professor Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, head of Department of Epidemiology and Research at National Heart Foundation said, “Implementation of the regulations is crucial to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by trans-fat-induced heart diseases.”

According to the WHO report on Global Trans-fat Elimination 2022, 43 countries including neighbouring India have implemented best-practice policies for tackling trans-fat in food. However, Bangladesh is still lagging behind in this issue.

SM Nazer Hossain, Vice President, Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, Bangladesh Country Lead of GHAI, and ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA were also present at the webinar as discussants.

The webinar was moderated by PROGGA’s Coordinator Sadia Galiba Prova.