MANILA - About 1.4 billion people are now protected from trans fat as 40 countries now have best-practice policies against the dangerous food compound, according to a report by the World Health Organization on Tuesday night.
WHO says the number of countries with regulations against industrially-produced trans fat has tripled since 2020.
Trans fat, commonly used in making pastries, cooking oil, fried food and packaged food, can raise cholesterol levels increasing the risk of heart disease.
Health ministers have set a target in 2018 to eliminate industrially-produced trans fat from food supplies by 2023.
“We can eliminate this unhealthy fat and replace them with healthy oils. This would lead to (preventing) about 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease every year,” said Francesco Branca, WHO director of nutrition and food safety.
The WHO report shows richer countries are making progress, but poorer nations that register the highest number of coronary heart disease cases because of trans fats are being left behind.
Ten out of 15 nations with the highest heart disease toll due to trans fat have not adopted such polices, according to data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Countries included are Egypt, Iran Mexico, Azerbaijan, Ecuador, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Bhutan, Nepal, and Australia.
The Philippines, along with Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, and Ukraine, is recognized as among the countries that beefed up protective legislation since May 2020.
Philippines is among the first lower middle-income counties to pass such practices against industrially-produced trans fat.
Brazil, Peru, Singapore, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the European Union are noted with best practice policies.
However, coconut and palm oil-producing countries have raised political and economic concerns on the limiting of use of oils high in saturated fatty acids, according to WHO.
“Basically, we are suggesting that we replace the industrial trans fat with unsaturated fat, usually oils that come from soy, rapeseed – different basically plant-based oils. We would actually like to prevent the shift towards other oils which are cheap and widely accessible – such as pal moil because pail oil has high concentration of saturated fat,” Branca said.
He added that it is possible to process palm oil through new technologies to include “healthy component.”
After the commitment of the International Food and Beverage Alliance to phase out industrial trans fat by 2023, the WHO is also having dialogue with major oil manufacturers.
WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus warned that “the clock is ticking” towards the global goal with the target on 2023 nearing.
“The first-ever global elimination of a risk factor for noncommunicable diseases is within our reach. All countries must act now to protect their people from this harmful and unnecessary compound,” he said.
WHO’s third report on the progress of eliminating harmful trans fat highlighted positive progress in low and lower-middle income countries.
According to WHO, the fulfillment of the global goal could save lives and reduce the burden on healthcare by preventing cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks.
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