Elimination of industrially produced trans fatty acids from food stressed
ISLAMABAD: Industrially produced trans fatty acids (iTFAs) are clearly associated with higher disease burden due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardio-vascular diseases, hypertension, strokes, cancers, and diabetes. According to a WHO in 2016, 6 out of 10 deaths in Pakistan contributed due to NCDs, including 3 out of 10 deaths by cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Similarly, the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimated in 2021 that Pakistan has the 3rd highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 33 million cases with additional 10 million termed as pre diabetic. Unhealthy food supply and consumption is among the top contributors to the growing number of overweight people leading to chronic diseases.
Focusing on this dietary risk factor to reduce NCDs in Pakistan, these science-based facts were shared by experts during a training workshop for journalists on “Understanding TFAs, Policy, Human Health, and Reporting”, which was organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) with the support of Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination.
Prominent health experts including Munawar Hussain, Country Coordinator GHAI, Dr Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator, Nutrition & NFA, Ministry of National Health Services, Islamabad, Dr Syed Muhammad Ghufran Saeed, Assistant Professor, Food Science and Technology Department, University of Karachi and Syed Zubair Faisal Abbasi, Project Manager CPDI spoke to the journalists during the training.
More than 28 journalists from across Pakistan representing various national and international media outlets participated in the training. The trainers informed the participants about major dietary risk factors such as high percentage of trans fats, saturated fats, sugar, and sodium in the food supply and dietary practices.
Munawar Hussain, Country Coordinator, Global Health Advocacy Initiative (GHAI) informed the participants that Pakistan’s high industrially produced TFA consumption was linked to Pakistan’s high rate of mortality due to heart disease (29.1% of deaths). “Reducing consumption of TFA has the potential to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, particularly in those countries that consume more than 1% of total energy from TFAs,” he added.
Dr Khawaja Masuood Ahmed shared the brief progress update on reduction of trans fatty acids in Pakistan. He emphasized the importance of adopting the best policy practice for eliminating industrially-produced TFA by setting 2% limit of iTFA of total fats in all foods. “It is the “all foods” regulation which needs urgent attention from the policy circles,” he further stated.
In his remarks, Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director of CPDI emphasized the importance of more media attention to unprecedented health related challenges being faced by the people of Pakistan. He said that all stakeholders including media, government departments and civil society organizations must establish cooperative mechanisms to jointly work for public health, especially through mobilizing public support, adopting appropriate policies and regulations, and effective enforcement of food supply standards.