Govt to eliminate trans-fat from foods ‘soon’

The government will eliminate trans-fat from foods within a short period of time, Minister for industries Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said on Thursday, accepting nine point demands of a group of experts. For that, he said age old acts will be reformed and updated if necessary.

This is necessary for safeguarding the public health, the minister said while speaking at an event in Dhaka on Thursday. 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) organised the event styled “Trans Fat in Foods, Heart Disease Risks and Necessary Actions: Consumer’s Perspective”.

They placed the nine points demand before the minister citing studies that 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 humans. Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, Public Health Specialist and Country Coordinator of GHAI, said that Bangladesh’s food exports can be hampered if trans-fat is not eliminated from food products.

Monzur Morshed Ahmed, Member of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA), said that the authority has decided to determine the limit for trans-fats to 2 percent. “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.

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. 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 ABM Zubair, Executive Director of PROGGA were also present, among others.

Conducted by journalist Nadira Kiron, the key speakers of the programme were Dr Sohel Reza Choudhury, Professor of the Epidemiology and Research Department of NHFB; Md Hasan Shahriar, Director and Head of Program, PROGGA; and Ahmed Ekramullah, Program Coordinator of CAB. The nine point Charter of Consumer Demands are: 1. Determine the maximum permissible level of trans-fat in all food products to 2% of the total fat or oil following the recommendations of World Health Organisation.

2. Ban the production, import, marketing and use of Dalda/Bonospoti (Partially Hydrogenated Oil or PHO) which is the prime source of trans-fats. 3. Amend the ‘Packaged Food Labeling Regulation, 2017’ in order to make it mandatory to declare the amount of trans-fats on packaging food products.

4. Notification of specific logo for trans-fat free (2%) food products and implement compulsory use of it. 5. 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.

6. Install advanced laboratory/equipment and recruit necessary human resource required to measure the level of trans-fats in foods. 7. 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.

8. Carry out capacity building of concerned officers/officials and motivate/sensitize them for effective implementation of trans-fat regulations. 9. Create awareness among consumers about the health risks of trans-fats through mass publicity.