Industry Minister vows to materialize the charter of consumer demands Shortly
Golam Mostafa Jibon : Consumer health is at severe threat due to the lack of policy for regulating excessive levels of trans-fat in foods in Bangladesh. Trans-fat increases the risk of heart diseases for human beings.
Under such circumstances, in order to address the necessary actions for eliminating trans-fats and to submit the 9 point Charter of Consumer Demands for safeguarding consumer health, a discussion meeting titled “Trans Fat in Foods, Heart Disease Risks and Necessary Actions: Consumer’s Perspective” has been jointly organized by the Consumer’s Association of Bangladesh (CAB), National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh (NHFB) and PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) in association with Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) recently at the CIRDAP auditorium.
The chief guest attending the discussion meeting, Mr. Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun MP, Minister of the Industries affairs Ministry said, that for safeguarding the public health, the 9 point Charter of Consumer Demands for eliminating trans-fat will be executed within a short period of time.
In order to regulate trans-fat, age old acts will be reformed and updated if necessary, further said the minister. Special guest at the meeting Mr. Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, Public Health Specialist and Country Coordinator of GHAI, has said that Bangladesh is now exporting food products to foreign nations. Therefore, if trans-fat is not eliminated then those countries will no more buy our food products and our country will end up in an economic loss. Mr. Monzur Morshed Ahmed, honorable Member of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), said that the authority has decided to determine the limit for trans fats to 2%. A technical committee has already commenced their activity for this purpose. National Prof. Brigadier (Retd.) Abdul Malik, Founder and President of the NHFB said that trans-fat in foods must be eliminated in order to reduce the prevalence of non communicable diseases (NCDs). Mr. Ghulam Rahman, the President of CAB, commented that in order to meet the target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) of eliminating trans-fat by 2023 the government and the consumer associations need to work together. Among other guests at the discussion meeting there were Mr. Md. Muazzem Hossain, Director General of the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI); Dr. Habibur Rahman, Line Director NCDC of the Directorate General of Health (DGH); Advocate Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan, General Secretary of CAB; and Mr. ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA. Conducted by Ms. Nadira Kiron, News Editor of ATN Bangla, the key speakers of the program were Dr. Sohel Reza Choudhury, Professor of the Epidemiology and Research Department of NHFB; Mr. Md. Hasan Shahriar, Director and Head of Program, PROGGA; and Mr. Ahmed Ekramullah, Program Coordinator of CAB.
The Charter of Consumer Demands are determine the maximum permissible level of trans-fat in all food products to 2 percent of the total fat or oil following the recommendations of World Health Organization, ban the production, import, marketing and use of Dalda/Bonospoti (Partially Hydrogenated Oil or PHO), which is the prime source of trans-fats, amendment of the ‘Packaged Food Labeling Regulation, 2017’ in order to make it mandatory to declare the amount of trans-fats on packaging food products, notification of specific logo for trans-fat free (2 percent) food products and implement compulsory use of it, eliminate the scope of deceiving the consumers with false/deceitful declarations about trans-fats on the packaging of food products, strictly monitor the advertisements and promotions of packaged food products in order to do so, install advanced laboratory/equipment and recruit necessary human resource required to measure the level of trans-fats in foods, conduct regular surveillance assessments/tests to monitor the trans-fat levels in food products and make the results available for consumers by publishing it in the public domain/website, carry out capacity building of concerned officers/officials and motivate/sensitize them for effective implementation of trans-fat regulations and create awareness among consumers about the health risks of trans-fats through mass publicity.
It was said at the discussion meeting that, excessive intake of Trans-fats increases the risk of heart diseases. Eating foods rich with Trans-fats increases the ‘bad cholesterol’ in blood serum while reducing the ‘good cholesterol’ and ultimately afflicts people with illness.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that excessive intake of industrially produced TFA is responsible for more than 500,000 deaths from heart diseases globally. Usually deep fried and bakery foods contain industrially produced trans-fats. When hydrogen (hydrogenation) is added to different types of vegetable oil (palm, soybean, etc), those oils become condensed to a semis-solid form and produce trans-fat along the way.
This Partially Hydrogenated Oil or PHO is popularly known as Dalda or Bonospoti Ghee in our country. Moreover, while deep frying food items, using the same oil repeatedly in high temperature also produces Trans-fat in those foods. As per the recommendation by WHO, the daily intake of Trans-fats for a person should be less than 1 percent of the total calorie intake or in other words, in a daily diet of 2000 calories, the intake of Trans-fats should be less than 2.2 g. Considering the detrimental effects of Trans-fats on human health, in 2003, Denmark became the first country in the world to impose restrictions on TFAs, limiting the level to be not more than 2 percent of the total fat in food items. 30 countries including Brazil, South Africa and Iran have already set the maximum permissible level of TFAs their food items. On the other hand, Thailand, Singapore, America and Canada have completely banned the production and use of PHOs – the major source of Trans-fats.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has declared its goal of setting the permissible level of Trans-fats to 2 percent by 2022 as well as to completely abolish the use of industrially produced trans fats in foods. According to WHO report, five billion people are at risk of industrially produced Trans-fat exposure and most of these people live in low-and middle-income countries.
To address this situation, in 2018 the World Health Organization declared the REPLACE action package which has set the goal of achieving a Trans-fat free world by 2023. Due to the absence of any regulatory policy regarding elimination of trans-fat in Bangladesh the levels of trans-fat are excessive than permissible in food products which is resulting in escalated risks of premature deaths from heart diseases. If this situation persists, the Sustainable Development Goal (Goal 3.4) of reducing premature deaths from NCDs by one third within 2030 will not be achievable. Hence, for the prevention of heart diseases along with effective development of public health, there is no alternative of eliminating trans-fat.