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CSOs seek speedy enforcement, regulation of TFAs in Nigeria

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Civil society organisations (CSOs) and public health advocates have canvassed speedy enforcement and regulation of trans fatty acids (TFAs) in the country’s food chain.

They lamented that continuous consumption of trans fats had continued to pose serious health challenges and that a recent World Health Organisation (WHO) data revealed that over 500,000 people die yearly from cardiovascular diseases traceable to intake of trans fat.

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They stated this at a media briefing organised by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) in Lagos with the theme: “Trans Fat And Cardiovascular Disease: Protecting The Health of The Populace Through TFA Regulation.”

Speaking, Technical Adviser to TFA-Free Nigeria Campaign and Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Dr. Jerome Mafeni, urged the National Agency for Foods, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to urgently begin enforcement and regulation of TFAs in the country.

He explained that industrially produced TFAs are unsaturated fats chemically manufactured via passage of hydrogen through oils for them to be used as solid fats, adding, however, that bacteria also produce naturally occurring TFAs in the guts of animals such as cows, goats and sheep, among others.

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Mafeni lamented that over half a million deaths per year are attributable to consumption of industrial trans fatty acids (iTFAs), adding that WHO recommended that TFAs should not exceed one per cent of energy intake per day.

“Small and medium-sized oil, fat and food products often lack the capacity and know-how to replace TFAs,” he said.

Therefore, regulations targeting iTFAs should take this into account through long enough transition periods and technical support. Knowledge transfer between large and small producers could be an additional solution,” he said.

Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, stressed that Nigerians should not be misled by food producers that are now advertising trans fat-free products, describing the approach as “deceptive marketing.”

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He commended NAFDAC for the draft “Fat and Oils Regulations 2019 and the “Pre-Packaged, Ice and Labeling Regulations of 2019, adding that the Trans Fat-Free Nigeria coalition was partnering with the agency on enforcement of the regulation and currently awaiting its approval.

“We are also happy that at a recent meeting with NAFDAC, the Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, announced that the draft regulations will go through some processes before its approval by the board and assured that the approval and final gazetting of the regulations will happen soon,” he added.

Nigeria Co-ordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Joy Amafah and Director of the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), Dr. Kingsley Akinrore, supported the initiative, saying all Nigerians must partner to save people from trans fat-induced cardiovascular ailments and deaths.

The groups recommended that NAFDAC should finalise the processes for completing its participation in the WHO TFA laboratory testing “ring-trial” so that the enhanced capacity to carry out testing will serve the country and the entire West African sub-region, among other recommendations.

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