Five billion people are vulnerable to trans fat, which can lead to heart disease, says WHO

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Five billion people around the world remain unprotected from trans fat harmful, according to a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO), released this Monday (23). The public health problem increases the risk of heart disease and death, according to the WHO.

WHO championed the global elimination of industrially produced trans fat in 2018, with an elimination target set for 2023. Since then, population coverage of best practice policies has increased nearly sixfold. In all, 43 countries, including Brazil, have implemented best practice policies to combat trans fat in food, protecting an estimated 2.8 billion people worldwide.

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Despite substantial progress, 5 billion worldwide still remain at risk of negative health impacts due to consumption of trans fat. The WHO warns that the global goal of total elimination by 2023 has become unattainable right now.

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 worldwide.

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“Trans fat has no known benefits and enormous health risks that carry enormous costs for health systems,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom. “On the other hand, eliminating trans fat is cost-effective and has enormous health benefits. Simply put, trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all.”

Currently, 9 of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of CHD deaths caused by trans fat intake do not have a best practice policy. They are: Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and the Republic of Korea.

Best practice trans fat elimination policies follow specific criteria set by the WHO and limit industrially produced trans fat in all environments.

There are two best practice policy alternatives:

  1. Mandatory national limit of 2 grams of industrially produced trans fat per 100 grams of total fat in all foods
  2. Mandatory national ban on the production or use of partially hydrogenated oils (a major source of trans fat) as an ingredient in all foods

“Progress in eliminating trans fat is in danger of stalling, and trans fat continues to kill people,” said Tom Frieden, president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives. “Any government can stop these preventable deaths by passing a best practice policy now. The days of trans fat killing people are numbered – but governments must act to end this preventable tragedy.”

While most trans fat elimination policies to date have been implemented in high-income countries (mainly in the Americas and Europe), an increasing number of middle-income countries are implementing or adopting such policies, including Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Paraguay, Philippines and Ukraine.

According to the report, the Americas region continues to make progress in eliminating trans fat. THE Brazil is among the six countries on the continent to implement a policy of best practices in the area alongside Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Canada and the United States.

In 2022, Uruguay’s ban on 2% trans fat in all foods came into effect. More recently, Argentina approved a best practice policy, which will come into effect in 2024, which extends the existing 2% limit on oils and fats to all other foods.

Best practice policies are also being considered in Mexico, Nigeria and Sri Lanka by 2023. If passed, Nigeria would be the second and most populous country in Africa to implement a trans fat elimination best practice policy. No low-income country has adopted a best-practice policy to eliminate trans fat, according to the WHO.

In 2023, WHO recommends that countries focus on these four areas: adoption of best practice policies, monitoring and surveillance, healthy oil substitutions, and advocacy. WHO guidance was developed to help countries make rapid advances in these areas.

The WHO also encourages food manufacturers to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from their products, in line with the commitment made by the International Food and Beverage Alliance (IFBA). Major suppliers of oils and fats are asked to remove industrially produced trans fat from products sold to food manufacturers around the world.

The report, called “Countdown to 2023”, is an annual status document published by WHO in collaboration with Resolve to Save Lives, to track progress towards the goal of eliminating trans fat by 2023.

Source: CNN Brasil

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