By Franca Ofili
The Federal Government has restated commitment toward speedy gazetting of
Trans-fat free Nigeria through oil and fats regulations.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, disclosed this in Abuja on Thursday when a group called #Transfatfree Nigeria coalition paid him an advocacy visit.
Transfat is an unhealthy substance made through the chemical process of hydrogenation of oils which solidifies liquid oils and increases the shelf life and the flavour stability of oils and foods that contain them.
Trans Fatty Acids (TFA) are found in vegetable shortening and in some margarine, crackers, cookies and snacks, as well as deep-fried foods.
The unhealthy substance both raise the ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol and lower the ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol levels in blood, increasing the risk of heart disease.
Mamora then assured the ministry’s readiness to collaborate with the body on implementation and enforcement of trans-fatty acids regulation, and capacity building for National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) toward improved testing.
He also promised to follow up on the draft regulation on transfatty acids in the country.
He added that “it is not just finding out the cause of the delay in the passage of the TFA regulation but to move it forward. This is about the health of Nigerians.”
He stressed the need to have preventive measures, given the number of cooking oil sold in the open market so as not to place additional burden to an already stretched health sector.
He added that “the Fats and Oil Regulations 2019, when passed into law, will limit trans-fat to 2g per 100g of total fat in all fats, oils, and foods”
Mamora, while appreciating the efforts and work of the #Transfatfree Nigeria Campaign, said it was geared toward ensuring that the National Health Security was assured.
He urged the group not to restrict its work to the national level but to consider looking into the local foods that may be unhealthy.
While giving an overview of the campaign, Dr Jerome Mafeni, the Project Adviser, TFA Elimination, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), said the campaign handlers had been engaging with NAFDAC.
He added that the finalisation and gazetting of the regulations had experienced significant delays.
Mafeni requested the intervention of the minister toward expediting the passage of the regulations.
Dr Emmanuel Sokpo, the Country Head, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), expressed concern around morbidities associated with cardiovascular diseases from the COVID-19 infections pandemic.
Earlier, Joy Amafah, the In-Country Coordinator, Cardiovascular Health Programme, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, who stressed the
urgency in passage of the TFA Regulation, said that countries that started the process after Nigeria had already passed their regulations into law.
She said “this process started in 2019 and the campaign is advocating to the minister to use his good office to advance the quick finalisation of the regulations.”
Dr Maryam Al-Mansur, the Nutrition Policy Advisor, Resolve to Save Lives, Nigeria, (RTSL) , stressed the need to address the issues of trans-fatty acids in Nigeria to reduce comorbidities of cardiovascular diseases caused by COVID-19.
Al-Mansur highlighted other countries such as China, India and the Philippines among others that have passed the regulations into law.
Mr Akinbode Oluwafemi, the Executive Director, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), expressed the readiness of the coalition to collaborate with NAFDAC and Ministry of Health for effective implementation of the regulations when passed.
He said the regulations should be in compliance with the World Health Organisation (WHO) REPLACE package.
The REPLACE package is a global document and pathway to ensure that countries are free from the dangers of trans-fat.