Countries with regulations against industrially produced trans fats tripled over the past year

    CountriesBangladeshCountries with regulations against industrially produced trans fats tripled...
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    Countries with regulations against industrially produced trans fats tripled over the past year

    2021 saw India and Bangladesh tighten the norms for oils, fats and trans-fatty acids in food products. Rules to put a cap on trans-fatty acids in food products were long-awaited. However, neighbouring Pakistan along with Nepal and Bhutan still have to regulate the consumption of the greasy cholesterol.

    In early 2021, India’s Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) put rules into place to eliminate trans-fatty acids, or simply trans fat. Towards the end of the year, the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority too adopted the best-practice policy declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) to regulate the toxic trans-fatty acid in foodstuffs.

    The number of countries with a best-practice in place to pursue a policy to eliminate trans fats now stands at 40.

    With such provisions in place, these countries are protecting 1.4 billion people from the deadly food compound, according to a report released by WHO.

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    Around 940 million people living in high-income countries are protected by these policies, but no one living in low-income countries has the same regulatory protection, so far.

    What is trans fat and why is it bad

    Trans fat is an artificial compound that can be found in cakes, cookies, biscuits, packaged foods, cooking oils and spreads. WHO estimates that consumption of these fats cause around 500,000 deaths per year due to coronary heart disease.

    According to the agency, eliminating this product from the global food supply could save lives and reduces the burden on healthcare by preventing heart attacks. The world body has set a global goal for the 194 members states to eliminate trans fats by 2023.


    The report notes that, this year alone, best practice policies came into effect in Brazil, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, United Kingdom and the European Union.

    Since May 2020, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, the Philippines and Ukraine have also upped their protective legislation.

    The countries with the most trans fat in their food supply, however, have yet to give these critical policies a green light.

    Currently, Egypt, Iran, Mexico, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Bhutan, Nepal and Australia are among countries yet to make rules to protect their citizens from trans fats.

    Until 2020, well before India and Bangladesh put their rules for trans fats in place, the five SouthAsian neighbours were among a set of 15 countries accounting for two-thirds of the deaths linked to the substance, the WHO September had said.

    Milestone ‘within reach’

    Launching the report, WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, warned that “the clock is ticking” to accomplish the global goal of eliminating trans fats in the next two years.

    “The first-ever global elimination of a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases is within our reach. All countries must act now to protect their people from this harmful and unnecessary compound”, he argued.

    The report, the third to report progress on this area, highlights encouraging progress in low and lower-middle-income countries.

    Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Ukraine became the first lower middle-income countries to pass best-practice policies. India’s policy alone covers more than 1 billion people.

    Trans fats and ovarian cancer

    Two years ago, in 2020, scientists at the UN-affiliated International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had announced the identification of a likely link between ovarian cancer and processed and fried foods containing so-called “transfats”.

    The announcement came at the conclusion of a study covering 1,500 patients suffering from the disease, which is the eighth most common cause of cancer death in women.

    Previous, smaller studies have suggested a link between these industrially manufactured fatty foods and ovarian cancer, but the evidence has been “inconclusive” until now, said IARC’s nutritional epidemiologist, Dr Inge Huybrechts.


    Image: Wikimedia 

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