GHANA – The Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA), a non-profit civil society organization in Accra, is urging the government to supply the country’s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) with service laboratories to enable them to test Trans-Fatty Acids (TFAs) in food products in the country.

INSLA said TFAs are dangerous to human health if consumed, noting that many imported foods contained TFAs but due to the existing gap in laboratory testing capacity, such foods easily make their way into the country’s markets.

Speaking at a day’s capacity building and consultative workshop for political parties on TFAs elimination in the country, the Project Manager of INSLA, Mr. Issah Ali, said consumption of TFAs would go a long way to affect the health of many Ghanaians.

In his view, equipping the FDA with the needed logistics would help the country to easily create awareness on food products that pose threats to people’s health. He said the training was to help engage the various political parties on the need to take issues of TFAs seriously and to help gather support for its elimination in the country.

“We are gathered here this morning for two major activities mainly to bring to fore the World Health Organization (WHO) REPLACE Technical Package towards the global elimination of Trans-Fatty Acid by 2023 and consultative meeting to eliminate Trans Fat in Ghana,” he said.

In a presentation, Dr Phyllis Addo, a Lecturer at the University of Health and Allied Sciences (UHAS), expressed the concern for an urgent need to regulate the penetration of TFAs in both imported and locally produced foods in the country.

According to her, Ghanaian markets have been flooded with imported processed foods that are generally known to contain some amount of TFAs, mentioning plantain chips and some cooking oils as examples.

She also expressed concern that lifestyle related diseases were killing many people in Ghana, calling on Ghanaians to pay more attention to their diets and lifestyles, as reported by Graphic Online.

Dr Addo also called on the media to help sensitize Ghanaians about the effects of consuming foods that contained TFAs, noting that many Ghanaians were not aware of the impact of TFAs.

In line with a research led by her, majority of Ghanaians have never heard or read about TFA and only a few are aware of the link between intake of TFA and diseases like cancers, diabetes, hypertension; and the general poor practices regarding usage of cooking oils.

Leading cause of heart diseases

Trans Fats exist naturally in small amounts in some meat and dairy products. However, they’re also artificially added to many foods as partially hydrogenated oil, because it spoils more slowly than similar products. TFAs are fats created during food preparation, and can also be found in snacks, baked or fried foods or oils used in cooking at home, restaurants or by street vendors.

Trans fat is considered the worst type of fat to eat. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), increased intake of trans-fat, greater than one per cent of total energy intake, is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease mortality and events.

Mr. Ali said at least 500,000 people die annually around the world through heart disease, pointing out that TFAs are the leading causes of heart diseases and stroke in the world. The 2021 Ghana Health Service report indicated that TFAs could contribute to 12,000 to 16,000 stroke cases in Ghana.

In 2018, released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.

Several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food. Some governments have implemented nationwide bans on partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of industrially-produced trans fats.

In Denmark, the first country to mandate restrictions on industrially-produced trans fats, the trans-fat content of food products declined dramatically and cardiovascular disease deaths declined more quickly than in comparable Organization for Economic Development (OECD) countries, according to WHO.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently banned products containing partially hydrogenated oils in the US, as they are one of the most common sources of trans fat.

WHO recommends that the total trans-fat intake be limited to less than 1% of total energy intake, which translates to less than 2.2 g/day with a 2,000-calorie diet.

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