The Corporate Accountability for Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), a non-governmental organisation (NGO), says the fats and oils regulation bill will improve access to healthy foods for Nigerians.
Akinbode Oluwafemi, CAPPA’S executive director, said this on Monday at a media briefing to mark World Food Day.
World Food Day is commemorated annually on October 16.
Trans fat can be found in baked foods, fries, pre-packaged foods, and cooking oils. It is also in butter, salmon, egg yolk, and cow milk.
Speaking at the event, Oluwafemi said this year’s theme — ‘Leave No One Behind’ — is timely as global challenges have affected food security.
“The slow recovery of the global economy from the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change continue to strain food production. The Russia-Ukraine war, which started in February this year, has particularly had grave impacts on the supply of much-needed grains and fertilizers needed to grow food,” he said.
“Africa is particularly disadvantaged in view of the global politics of food which provides for heavy subsidisation of agricultural resources in the global north and heavy levies and roadblocks imposed on agricultural products from Africa.
“This, among other reasons, necessitates a yearly opportunity for stakeholders to interrogate the issues and chart a path forward.”
Oluwafemi, who also cited the impact of trans fats on diseases like diabetes, heart failure, kidney malfunction, cancer, obesity, among others, said there is a need for laws on regulation.
“To mitigate this, this coalition urges the government to immediately gazette the fats and oils regulation, 2021; put in a place an effective implementation framework of the regulation for the good of Nigerians; and put relevant MDAs with the federal ministry of health and NAFDAC at the fore to work collaboratively to ensure strict compliance of the actors in the sector with the regulations,” he added.
Jerome Mafeni, project adviser for trans-fatty acids (TFA) elimination, Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED), said regulating TFAs would protect vulnerable populations.
“Improving access to safe and nutritious food is important, especially for poor and vulnerable communities who are hit hardest by the harmful effects unhealthy foods have on consumers,” Mafeni said.
“This is more so as several of these can be prevented through the improvement in public awareness and appropriate regulations.
“Trans fats have been linked to increases in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death. According to estimates by the World Health Organisation, over 500,000 persons died yearly resulting from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats.
“This statistics has led to the call for the global elimination of industrially produced trans-fat by 2023.
“It includes initiatives that accelerate agrifood systems’ transformations by eradicating poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, reducing inequalities, promoting decent rural employment and services, fostering gender equality, ensuring social protection, ending child labour, supporting local food production for vulnerable populations in food crisis countries, and supporting rural populations, who are the ones that produce more than a third of the world’s food.”
Also speaking, Joy Amafah, in-country coordinator of Global Health Advocacy Incubation (GHAI), acknowledged the government’s efforts to ensure healthier nutrition, but said challenges still remained.
“It has been years to get to this point. Surely, Nigeria is advancing in this regard, yet significant challenges remain. Although there is a growing interest and awareness for healthy nutrition and behavioral change, what appears to be a pattern amongst the high-incomed population going for seasonal, largely plant-based and high-fibre diets, compared to products high in processed foods. This is not the same for low-income population,” she said.
“Limiting the consumption of TFAs will not only safeguard Nigerians but could potentially place Nigeria on the global front as the second African country to enact best practices to eliminate industrially produced TFAs in line with the WHO REPLACE action framework.”