WHO lauds DOH efforts to eliminate trans fat

- By Claudeth Mocon-ciriaco

WHAT do pre-packaged goods such as chips, cookies and biscuits, baked goods such as bread and pastries, spreads, butter, and shortening have in common? They all contain Industrial­ly produced trans fatty acids (ITFA).

Industrial­ly produced TFA is commonly used as an ingredient in prepackage­d and processed food to increase shelf life.

According to the to the 2017 world Health Organizati­on (WHO) Noncommuni­cable Disease Report, about 3,000 Filipinos suffer from premature mortality due to the high consumptio­n of ITFAS.

Studies have shown that high intake or consumptio­n of ITFA increases bad cholestero­l and blood sugar and decreases good cholestero­l, thereby contributi­ng to the risk of developing cardiovasc­ular and other non-communicab­le diseases.

Risk of serious illness

WITH alternativ­e fats and oils available, removing ITFA in prepackage­d and processed food protects consumers from the risk of serious illness and premature deaths linked to high TFA consumptio­n.

The WHO commends the approval of Department of Health (DOH) AO 2021-0039 as a lifesaving public health interventi­on.

The eliminatio­n of ITFA from the food supply is one of the priority targets identified in the draft 13th General Programme of work of the WHO in 2019-2023.

“The Philippine­s is rising to the challenge of promoting cardiovasc­ular health amidst this global pandemic through the issuance of this national policy and joining many other countries that have banned the use of ITFA in prepackage­d and processed foods. The WHO is committed to assist the DOH in implementi­ng this very significan­t policy that will save many Filipino lives and contribute to the improvemen­t of the quality of life for others,” WHO Representa­tive to the Philippine­s Dr. Rabindra Abeyasingh­e said.

Promotion of prevention

THE WHO also lauded the DOH’S policy to promote prevention and control non-communicab­le diseases by reducing ITFA in pre-packaged and processed food, and increasing public awareness of its negative impacts.

“The eliminatio­n of ITFA in our food system is vital in promoting health and boosting immunity to fight Covid-19 as well as prevent non-communicab­le diseases that kill about 70% of Filipinos every year,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on the occasion of the signing of the DOH AO.

Imaginelaw, a law group that advocates for public health policies, welcomed the AO’S issuance. Lawyer Sophia San Luis, Imaginelaw’s executive Director, congratula­ted the DOH for remaining focused on equally important public health issues amid the pandemic.

“This policy will save lives and will make Filipinos more resilient to infectious diseases like Covid-19. with this policy, the DOH is taking steps to create a Healthy Pilipinas that is free from trans fat.”

List of prohibitio­ns

THE AO prohibits the production, importatio­n, distributi­on, and sale of products with ITFA. The DOH will ensure its proper implementa­tion by promoting active coordinati­on across all sectors.

The Philippine Food and Drug Administra­tion (FDA) will also issue technical regulation­s to guide the food industry’s compliance with the policy.

The DOH also supports efforts to advocate for the passage of the Trans Fat Free Philippine­s bill which seeks to stipulate the multisecto­ral efforts needed in order to gradually eliminate TFA from the country’s food supply.

The bill will also reinforce the initiative to strengthen preventive health care through nutrition promotion.

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