The #TransfatfreeNigeria campaign, a coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and other stakeholders have urged the federal government to decisively act on the rising food prices in the country.
They made the call on Monday in Abuja at the news conference marking this year’s World Food Day, with the theme, “Our Actions are our Future: Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life”.
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This is as the forum also called for immediate and sustained regulations on trans-fat, saying the absence of such is endangering Nigerian’s life and wellbeing.
Speaking at the event, the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said that the recent hike in food prices has increased the challenge of access to good nutrition and better life, saying that there is the need to ensure food safety for what is available and affordable.
Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, said that World Food Day is celebrated every year on October 16 to raise awareness and advocate for improved action towards food production, nutrition, and a reduction in hunger around the world.
He said that the world today faces two major problems; providing a healthy diet that affects both the rich and the poor, causing lifestyle issues like obesity and diabetes; and hunger which leads to malnutrition, death, and abnormal growth in children.
“The recent hike in food prices has increased the challenge of access to good nutrition and better life hence the need to ensure food safety for what is available and affordable.
“The role of dietary fats and oils in human nutrition is one of the most complex and controversial areas of investigations in nutrition science.
“The role of diet in preventing and controlling the morbidity and premature mortality resulting from various non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cannot be overemphasized as elimination in the consumption of foods high in trans-fat will impact positively on the health of Nigerians,” Oluwafemi said.
He said that fatalities associated with trans-fat consumption in Nigeria have continued to rise, especially with the surge in consumption of pastries, fast foods, packaged foods, processed foods, and baked foods, adding that there is more likely that more people will be at risk of major trans-fat induced health complications.
He said, “Food consumption is a critical aspect of human life that we cannot do without hence the need to place emphasis on better nutrition for improved life expectancy and better health outcomes as diseases can be prevented via nutrition hence the need for a regulation to eliminate consumption of trans-fat in food.”
He said that trans fats have been linked to increases in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death; and that according to new estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 250, 000 persons die yearly resulting from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats.
He said that this statistic has led to the call for the global elimination of industrially-produced trans-fat by 2023.
He said, “While we commend NAFDAC for its work on the draft regulation, we call on the Federal Ministry of Health to speed up the review and approval of the Trans-fat regulation for quick passage by the ministry of justice.
“The passage of the regulation will in great measure improve the future as it will lead to better food production, better nutrition and ultimately a better life for all Nigerians.”
On his part, Project Adviser, TFA free campaign, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), Dr Jerome O. Mafeni, called for accelerated gazetting and implementation of “Oils and Fats Regulations 2021” to protect citizens from the dangers of Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs).
He said that every day, more than three people in Nigeria die in part due to trans-fat consumption.
“That is one person while you are at work, one person while you are asleep at night, and one person in between.
“Any day the gazetting of regulations is delayed is one day too many.
“The science is clear and WHO agrees that iTFA has to go. Now is the time to make it happen, and eliminate for the first time ever a CVD risk factor,” Mafeni said.
On her part, Joy Amafah, the Nigeria Coordinator for the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), Resolve to Save Lives Cardiovascular Health program, said that whether it is a tasty slice of pizza or vegetable shortening, or a pack of French fries, a burger, crispy/fried chicken, every one of these food items has the tendency to contain significant levels of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids also known as IP-TFAs if not regulated.
She said that research had shown that trans fats have no health benefits and can raise the risk of heart disease three times higher than saturated fats and everyone knows that saturated fats are equally unhealthy.
“For Nigeria, the quick passage of the fats of oils regulation will ensure that the Nigerian Government safeguards the lives of millions of its citizens from this harmful fat thereby raising a healthy population for the future,” she said.