Trans fat intake: WHO’s warning for Bangladesh
Published: 11:57 AM, 10 September 2020
Trans-fat is an unhealthy substance that is made through the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils. Hydrogenation solidifies liquid oils and increases the shelf life and the flavor stability of oils and foods that contain them.
Fifteen countries, including Bangladesh, account for approximately two-thirds of the worldwide deaths linked to trans-fat intake, says the World Health Organization’s (WHO) on Thursday.
Of these, four countries -- Canada, Latvia, Slovenia, United States of America -- have implemented WHO-recommended best-practice policies since 2017, either by setting mandatory limits for industrially produced trans fats to 2% of oils and fats in all foods or banning partially hydrogenated oils (PHO).
But the remaining 11 countries -- Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea -- still need to take urgent action, said the UN agency.
Two years into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) ambitious effort to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats from the global food supply, the Organization reports that 58 countries so far have introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from the harmful substance by the end of 2021. But more than 100 countries still need to take action to remove these harmful substances from their food supplies.
Consumption of industrially-produced trans fats are estimated to cause around 500,000 deaths per year due to coronary heart disease.
“In a time when the whole world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we must make every effort to protect people’s health. That must include taking all steps possible to prevent non-communicable diseases that can make them more susceptible to the coronavirus, and cause premature death,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Our goal of eliminating trans fats by 2023 must not be delayed.”
“With the global economic downturn, more than ever, countries are looking for best buys in public health,” said Dr Tom Frieden, President and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “Making food trans-fat-free, saves lives and saves money, and, by preventing heart attacks, reduces the burden on health care facilities.”
Despite the encouraging progress, important disparities persist in policy coverage by region and country income level. Most policy actions to date, including those passed in 2019 and 2020, have been in higher-income countries and in the WHO Regions of the Americas and Europe. Best-practice policies have been adopted by seven upper-middle-income countries and 33 high-income countries; no low-income or lower-middle-income countries have yet done so.