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28 March, 2020 00:00 00 AM
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Govt working on regulation to lower trans fats in foods

Muhammad Yeasin, Dhaka

The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) is working on a regulation that will bring trans-fats in food within a 2 per cent limit. This will help the country achieve the goal set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate trans-fats from human food globally by 2023.

Even though just three years are left to achieve the goal, Bangladesh is still far away from formulating any rules and regulations on trans fats in human food.

In the meantime, the BFSA has already formed a 10-member technical committee, led by its member Monzur Morshed Ahmed, to find a way on how the trans fat level could be lowered in edible oils and others after discussing with experts, stakeholders, and consumers.

The committee has found that the country's vegetable oils, such as Dalda and Bonospoti ghee, contain high levels of trans fat, which is harmful to public health. It has also found a solution to lowering the trans fat content of these vegetable oils. It is possible to limit their trans fat levels below 2 per cent, if their current melting point, 37 degrees C, could be increased to 51 degrees C.

However, the committee needs experts' opinion on other possible health risks if the melting point is to be increased from 37 degrees to 51 degrees. So, it has decided to seek technical opinions in this regard. Monzur Morshed Ahmed said they already discussed the issue with stakeholders and experts at a recent meeting. It has been decided to seek technical opinions from some government and autonomous organisations, he added.

“We have sent a letter to the National Heart Foundation, Health Directorate, Institute of Public Health (IPH), Bangladesh, Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR), Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), Institute of Nutrition, Food Science of Dhaka University, and other authorities, seeking their expert opinions,” Monzur said.

“After getting their responses, we will send our recommendations to the government so that it can formulate rules and regulations for food producers to keep the level of trans fats under 2 per cent,” he added.

On December 15 last year, the Bangladesh Standards Testing Institute (BSTI) issued a warning notice about trans fats in foods, requesting food producers to limit the use of hydrogenated oils and refrain from reusing cooking oils during the preparation of food items in view of the health risks.

The institute also declared that it was strengthening its capacity and developing parameters for trans fats in relevant food items. So far, this has been one of the very few initiatives taken by Bangladesh to regulate food items containing trans fats.

Trans fatty acids (TFA) is a silent toxic killer. They have been dubbed as one of the major causes of cardiovascular diseases. High TFA in food increase the bad cholesterol and reduce the good cholesterol in the human body.

Intake of excessive levels of trans fats can cause heart blocks. It may also lead to brain strokes, Type-2 diabetes, and early heart attacks, resulting in premature deaths. A recent increase in heart attacks among young people is accountable to an excessive intake of trans fats via food.

According to WHO, 277,000 people die each year in Bangladesh due to coronary heart diseases. Another research done in 2010 has estimated that at least 8,000 people die yearly in Bangladesh due to the intake of high levels of trans fats. Perhaps what is more alarming is that the country lacks adequate expertise and equipment to assess the values of trans fats, say health experts and researchers.

According to WHO, in a daily diet of 2,000 calories, the intake of trans-fats should be below 1 per cent or less than 2.2 gm. With a target of bringing down the global trans-fat intake below 2.0 per cent by 2023, WHO recommended the action package REPLACE (Review, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create and Enforce), which will also contribute in reaching the SDG goal of reducing the prevalence of non-communicable diseases by one-third by 2030.

About 24 countries, including India, Thailand, Singapore, Canada, the US, and Denmark, have already initiated moves to control the use of TFA in foods. Denmark was the first to frame a law in 2003 in this regard.

The National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh (NHFB), Consumers’ Association of Bangladesh (CAB), and PROGGA (Knowledge for Progress) have jointly started awareness-building programmes in association with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) of Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK). They officially launched a campaign on December 15 last year. As part of the campaign on eliminating trans fats in Bangladesh, they conduct research to identify the actual level of trans fats in various food items in the country.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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