Trans Fat: Delayed Publication Of Regulation Is Dangerous

Fats and oils in unsaturated fat-containing meals (Trans Fat) are prone to oxidation. Foods with this type of effect are easily recognizable by their appearance, taste, and smell. It is life-threatening to eat such meals and could cause several cardiovascular diseases. Unfortunately, these types of meals are consumed on a regular basis by Nigerians and have led to the deaths of hundreds and rendered many incapacitated.

In order to reduce the health crisis caused by the consumption of hydrogenated meals, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for its elimination by 2023 by implementing the REPLACE Action Framework, which provides a guide to all countries in the development of a policy or regulation.

Statistics from WHO have indicated that over 36 million people die annually from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and accounting for 63% of all global deaths. Among these, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the number 1 cause of death and account for 17.5 million deaths annually. In this category, high blood pressure also leads as a risk factor. CVDs are disorders of the heart and blood vessels, and they include coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatic heart disease and other conditions. Four out of five CVD deaths are caused by heart attacks and strokes.

In Nigeria, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), in collaboration with coalition partners, leads the Transfat-free Nigeria campaign which targets the passage of relevant regulations to eliminate trans fatty acids consumption among Nigerians.

To ensure Nigeria joins the rest of the world in limiting trans fatty acids within its food chain, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has collaborated with the federal ministry of health and has updated two existing regulations which are, namely, the Fats and Oils, and Pre-packaged Ice and Water Labelling Regulation. Although some progress has been made in putting the regulations together and getting the NAFDAC Council’s approval, the delay in publishing them has become costly as it allows the manufacturers of foods high in trans fats, who are only interested in profits, to continue their business of marketing lethal foods.

Consumers gain the short end of the stick as they consume oils that lead to their ill health and death in some cases. A prolonged intake of such foods can also be linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers that over time, will affect insulin sensitivity and the risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in individuals with a genetic predisposition for diabetes.

Due to being worried by the delay in the publishing of the regulations, Akinbode Olufemi, the CAPPA executive director, has recently said that in line with the WHO directives, each country should put in place national regulations that limit trans fats in their foods. He recommended that the federal government with the assistance of 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. Further delay in making the regulations could pose a huge threat through the increased burden of non-communicable diseases in the country.