WHO Director General appeals to countries to protect their citizens from industrially produced trans fats, and remove it from the global food system by 2023
More than 3 billion people across 58 countries are now protected from harmful trans fats in their food since the launch of the World Health Organisation’s Global REPLACE trans fat initiative in 2018.
“More than 6 billion people live in countries that don’t protect their citizens from the harmful effects of industrially produced trans fats,” said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom in his remarks September 9 while releasing the WHO report on Global Trans Fats Elimination 2020. “WHO has been spearheading the effort to eliminate the use of industrially produced trans fats globally by 2023. It is time for the world’s leaders to protect their people from industrial trans fats. We have developed evidence based tools to make it happen, for countries to make it happen, Just imagine, every child born anywhere in the world after that date would be protected from exposure to these harmful chemicals.
In 2018, WHO launched a global effort to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat by 2023 in order to save lives and improve health and well-being of people to achieve healthier populations. While more than 3.2 billion people in 58 countries will be protected from trans-fat by next year—more than 100 countries still have this harmful compound in their food supply.
Eliminating industrially produced trans-fat is more important than ever to save lives and prevent cardiovascular diseases without burdening the health systems. Countries and regions should prioritise actions to ban industrially produced trans fats, to improve their populations’ health and well-being and prevent premature deaths.
Since the first annual progress report in May 2019, there has been significant progress in TFA elimination around the world. Two countries notified draft best-practice TFA policies for public comment and consultation: India in August 2019, and Nigeria in January 2020. New policy measures passed and introduced have overwhelmingly followed best practice (passed in Brazil and Turkey; drafts introduced in India and Nigeria); and countries that previously had less restrictive measures are updating 8 policies to align with best practice (passed in Saudi Arabia; draft introduced in India). According to the WHO, countries with the highest trans-fat burden still do not have best practice policies in place and should act immediately to protect their populations from the harms of trans fat. These countries are Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
In 2011, India passed regulations that set a TFA limit of 10% in oils and fats, which was further reduced to 5% in 2015. In December 2018, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) proposed reducing this limit to 2% and eliminating industrially produced TFA in the food supply by 2022, a year ahead of the global target. In August 2019, the FSSAI proposed aligning India’s regulations with global best practice and notified for public comment draft regulations that apply the 2% TFA limit to all food products by January 2022
The South-East Asia Region has seen relatively slow but growing interest in regulating TFA. India has had less restrictive limits in effect since 2013. In 2019, India notified draft best-practice regulations that would reduce the current regulatory limit for industrially produced TFA from 5% in oils and fats to 2%, and expand the limit to apply to all fats, oils and foods
“India has a double burden of malnutrition – With both under nutrition and rising obesity. The diet-related diseases continue to be an issue as rates of overweight and obesity continue to rise, said Dr Sujeet Ranjan, Executive Director, The Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security (CFNS). “Underweight still mostly affects children and adolescents, while overweight and obesity are rising across all ages. Eating foods rich in trans fats increases the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream and reduces the amount of beneficial HDL cholesterol which are major risk factors to common non-communicable diseases like to cardio vascular diseases, heart stroke, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. The commitment of FSSAI to reduce the industrially produced trans fatty acids to less than 2% by the year 2022 in a phased manner is a positive move to get Freedom from Trans Fat. This is the time to raise awareness among people about the harmful effects and its link to cardiovascular diseases,” he said.
A regional capacity-building workshop was planned for 2020 to strengthen regulatory capacities of national policymakers in the region. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been postponed, perhaps to 2021. Some parts of the planned capacity-building training may be conducted virtually while waiting for the more detailed face-to-face training workshop.