NIGERIA – Nigeria has become the second African country after South Africa to adopt a new best practice trans-fat elimination policy, that, according to estimates, will save almost 1,200 lives annually.

Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, is seen to have set a powerful example for other African countries that seek to safeguard their citizens’ heart health and work toward a trans-fat-free continent.

Industrially produced trans fat (also called industrially produced trans-fatty acids) is commonly found in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils, and spreads.

Trans fat intake is responsible for up to 500 000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Not only would passing best practice policies help to reduce the burden of heart disease throughout Africa, but it would inhibit the dumping of unhealthy foods into Africa as the rest of the world passes policies to ban the toxic food additive. Already, nearly half of the world’s population is covered by trans-fat-free policies,” Dr. Renu Garg, Senior Vice President of Cardiovascular Health at Resolve to Save Lives, who made the submission in a statement said.

He said that the regulation was the outcome of years of cooperation and work between the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigerian National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Network for Health Equity and Development, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), and Resolve to Save Lives.

“We look forward to supporting the Ministry of Health and NAFDAC to implement the regulation and apply for the World Health Organisation’s validation programme which will recognize countries that have officially eliminated industrially-produced trans-fat from their food supply,” Garg stated.

WHO and the nonprofit organization Resolve to Save Lives have teamed up to promote the creation and execution of the REPLACE action package.

The WHO’s REPLACE action package, which was introduced in 2018, offers a tactical method of eliminating industrially produced trans-fat from national food sources.

With a prior elimination target set for 2023, population coverage of best-practice policies has expanded about six-fold since WHO initially advocated for the global eradication of industrially produced trans fat in 2018.

According to a status report released in January, 2.8 billion people are now safeguarded worldwide thanks to 43 nations that have adopted best-practice laws to combat trans fats in food.

However, despite significant progress, this still exposes 5 billion people to the devasting health effects of trans fat, making the global target for its complete eradication in 2023 now unachievable.

In Africa, only South Africa has had a best-practice regulation in place since 2011. Notably, none of the East African nations have best-practice TFA policies and are all in the red.

Kenya has a national strategy that calls for the elimination of TFA, but it has failed to implement the necessary procedures and set up a monitoring system for its restrictions.

As the year began, Egypt took steps to comply with the WHO’s advice on safer levels of trans fats by requiring manufacturers and importers to limit trans fats levels in all food to two grams per 100 grams of total fat within 12 months.

Over the next 25 years, the global ban on trans fats could save more than 17 million lives and avert at least twice as many heart attacks.

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