Bangladesh has not done enough to lower the use of industrially produced trans fatty acids (iTFA) used in commercially produced foods to the tolerable level of 2.0 per cent by July 2023 as recommended by the of World Health Organization (WHO).
Bangladesh has a market of 0.24 million tonnes of partially-hydrogenated oil (PHO) which is 7.0 per cent of the total consumption in South East Asia.
Although Bangladesh has fewer producers of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), popularly known as dalda or banaspati, and is not randomly used in households, PHO is used in preparing snacks and bakery items. The rate of trans fat increases mainly due to reuse of cooked oil in preparing snacks and foods in hotels and restaurants.
Every year 277,000 people die in Bangladesh due to heart diseases caused mainly by intake of unhealthy diets.
About 28 countries including India, Thailand, Iran, Austria, Norway and South Africa have already taken steps to fix the limit of trans fat in food while another 24 are in the process to lower the limit to 2.0 per cent.
But Bangladesh still could not implement the REPLACE action package announced by WHO in 2018 despite the target to eliminate trans fat by 2023.
WHO set a target to free the world from industrially produced trans fatty acids by 2023. It will help reduce heart diseases and deaths from cardiac problems and cut the rate of non- communicable disease (NCD)-related deaths to one-third by 2030 as per the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3.4.
These were revealed at a seminar on 'Elimination of Trans Fat and Inauguration of Advocacy Campaign' at CIRDAP in the capital on Sunday.
National Heart Foundation (NHF), Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and Progga jointly organised the programme in collaboration with Global Health Advocacy Incubator.
Health minister Dr Zahid Maleque was present as the chief guest while Professor Habibe Millat was the special guest. NHF founder National Professor Brig Malik chaired the programme.
Dr Sohel Reza Chwodhury of Department of Epidemiology and Research at National Heart Foundation, Country Coordinator of Global Health Advocacy Incubator Ruhul Quddus and Progga team leader of trans fat project Hasan Shahriar made the keynote presentation.
Experts said that there is no law or policy in place to protect people from the harm caused by the industrially-produced trans fatty acids, although the death toll from cardiac problem and heart-related illness is alarming in Bangladesh.
A 2010 study suggests that at least 8,000 people die in Bangladesh because of excessive intake of trans fat.
The risk has become greater due to the uncontrolled use of partially hydrogenated oil (PHO) and excessive use of trans fat through foods causing deaths from non- communicable diseases (NCDs).
Excessive intake of artificial trans-fats is responsible for increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2-diabetes.
Artificial trans-fats raise bad cholesterol levels in the body and lower good cholesterol levels.
There are two types of trans-fats - artificial and natural. Natural trans-fats are developed from animal-produced foods like beef, mutton, dairy milk and dairy products, butter oil or ghee and butter.
Experts suggested that industrially produced trans fatty acids can be controlled by banning it or through policy support. It is easy to control trans fat in Bangladesh as there are few producers of PHO in Bangladesh where the authorities can set the limit of trans fat.
Artificial trans fats are produced by adding hydrogen to vegetable oils (palm, soybean etc.), converting the liquid oil into semi- solid fats, resulting in partially hydrogenated oil (PHO).
Food manufacturers use partially-hydrogenated oil to preserve their manufactured foods while it is also used in deep fried and baked foods for adding to the taste, flavour and stability of such processed foods.
Usually restaurants use the same oil for multiple cycles in order to reduce their costs for preparing singara, samosa, puri, jilapi, chicken fries, french fries and other fried foods and ultimately increase the amount of trans fats in these foods.
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