Safe food activists have urged the authorities to craft policies immediately following the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on limiting trans fat to 2.0 per cent of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods in order to ensure safe and trans fat-free food.
They have also suggested that the companies mandatorily mention the Trans Fatty Acid (TFA) levels on prepackaged items' nutrition facts panels, required level of partially-hydrogenated oils in ingredients, use of front-of-package labels that will mention that the products contain TFA, and restricting the use of health claims related to TFA - such as 'TFA-free' or 'low in TFA'.
They made the call on Thursday on the eve of World Food Day which falls on October 16.
WHO has set a target to limit the trans fat level to 2.0 per cent of all fat by 2023. Bangladesh could not even start the process of limiting the trans fat level by enacting regulations to protect public health from non-communicable diseases like heart attack.
Executive Director of advocacy organisation PROGGA ABM Zubair said trans fat causes 4.41 per cent of all the deaths from cardiovascular diseases in Bangladesh.
Hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved through trans fat restrictions. The theme for the year is 'Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future,'.
"So, we must enact necessary policies without further delay. Industrially produced trans fat in food is one of the major causes for increased risks of heart diseases," said Mr Zubair.
Globally, 0.25 million people die of heart diseases annually due to consumption of trans fat-laden food.
Bangladesh is among the 15 countries with the highest burden of deaths from trans fat-induced heart diseases, according to WHO.
Industrially produced trans fat in food primarily comes from Partially Hydrogenated Oil or PHO, which is known as dalda or banaspati in Bangladesh.
PHO or dalda is commonly used in preparing fried snacks, baked goods, as well as food preparation by restaurants and street food vendors.
In a recent study, the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute has found 92 per cent of sampled PHOs from Dhaka city contain trans fat (TFA) levels above 2.0 per cent limit set by the WHO. The sample PHOs even showed a staggering high concentration of TFA, 20.9g per 100 grams, which is more than 10 times of what the WHO-set as threshold. Bangladesh is yet to introduce any law or regulation to protect the public health from the harms of TFA.
However, very recently the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has decided to promulgate regulations limiting TFA to 2.0 per cent of the total fat contents of all fats, oils, and foods. In addition, a committee formed in this regard has already prepared a position paper to regulate TFA.