The project which is also being implemented in Uganda and Tanzania also aims to establish an effective regional regulatory mechanism for the elimination of industrially produced trans-fatty acids within food supply in the East African Community (EAC) in line with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation.
Trans-fats, otherwise known as trans-fatty acids (TFAs) are unsaturated fatty acids that come from either natural (coming from ruminants such as goats, cows and sheep) or industrial sources.
Trans fat has no known health benefits or nutritional value and are replaceable but the intake remains high in many developing countries like Kenya.
Industrially produced trans-fats (iTFA) are formed in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil converting the liquid into a solid, resulting in “partially hydrogenated” oil.
They are mostly used to prolong the shelf life of products and are primarily used for deep frying because they can withstand repeated heating and as an ingredient in baked food to give pastries an appealing texture.
It is approximated that nearly 540,000 deaths each year globally can be attributed to intake of industrially produced trans-fatty acids, reports The Star.
According to Elinami Mungure, East Africa Coordinator at Global Health Advocacy Incubator, consuming foods with transfats is one of the accelerating factors to cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
“All the East Africa member states have not addressed this except but mention that trans-fats should be eliminated or minimized in the food products,” he added.
Global Health Advocacy Incubator is an organization that supports civil society organizations that advocate for public health policies that reduce death and diseases.
The project brings together key partners including health ministries, the ministry of EAC, the Kenya Bureau of Standards, consumer organizations, the WHO, the Non-communicable Diseases Alliance of Kenya (NCDAK), the Kenya Cardiac society and patient led organizations and CSOs.
Trans-fats according to health experts increase cholesterol levels by taking cholesterol to the arteries and in turn clogs and narrows the arteries.
The WHO recommends that the intake of trans fats should be limited to less than one per cent of total energy intake. This translates to less than 2.2 g per day as part of a 2000-calorie diet.
“It is regional because we have the EAC and one of the pillars is a free trade, so if we are going to do it in one single country that means there will be chances for products produced in one of the member states to go to another state even if in that particular country they have the policy,” said Mungure.
High trans-fat intake is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases morbidity and mortality. In Kenya, it is estimated that 25 per cent of all hospital admissions and 13 per cent of all hospital deaths result from CVDs.
It is feared that these fats not only cause insulin resistance thus increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes but also create inflammation hence increase the risk of development of cancerous lesions.
“We need to give more profile to some of these issues like the dangers of consuming industrially produced trans fatty acids, we already have some policies, some commitments but it is not enough,” said Celine Awuor, CEO, International Institute for Legislative Affairs.