By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

THE Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa, CAPPA, Monday declared 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.

The Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, who stated this, while speaking with journalists in Abuja in commemoration of the World Food Day, noted that the 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.

The theme of the 2021 World Food Day is “Our Actions are Our Future – Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life”

According to him, the world today faces two major problems: the issue of providing a healthy diet which affects both the rich and the poor causing lifestyle issues such as obesity, diabetes and the issue of hunger which leads to malnutrition, death, and abnormal growth in children.

He said, “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 joint WHO/FAO Export Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Disease held at Geneva in 2002 recognized that the growing epidemic of chronic disease afflicting both developed and developing countries is related to dietary and lifestyle changes.

“The role of diet in preventing and controlling the morbidity and premature mortality resulting from various non-communicable diseases (NCDs) cannot be over emphasized as elimination in the consumption of foods high in trans fat will impact positively on the health of Nigerians.

“Fatalities associated to trans fat consumption in Nigeria has continued to rise especially with the surge in consumption of pastries, fast foods, packaged foods, processed foods, and baked foods which is easily described as junk food, there is even more likelihood that more people will be at risk of major trans-fat induced health complications.

“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.

“Trans fats have been linked to increases in the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death. According to new estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), over 250, 000 persons died yearly resulting from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats. This statistic has led to the call for the global elimination of industrially produced trans-fat by 2023.

“The WHO in May 2018 launched a comprehensive plan “REPLACE’’ to eliminate industrially produced artificial trans-fats from global food supply by 2023. The elimination of trans-fats is key to protecting health and saving lives. Replace is abbreviated in six strategic actions as Review, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create awareness and Enforce.

“This REPLACE package seeks to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially produced trans fats from the food supply system and it fully stands for: Review dietary sources of industrially produced trans-fat and the landscape for necessary policy change.

“Promote the replacement of industrially produced trans-fat with healthier fats and oils.
Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat. Assess and monitor trans-fat content in the food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population.

“Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fat among policymakers, producers, suppliers, and the public. Enforce compliance with policies and regulations. “

He further said, “As we commemorate the World food day 2021, it is imperative to re-emphasize the need for a trans-fat regulation in place to help achieve a trans-fat free Nigeria.

“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.

“Everyone must play their roles towards improved nutrition and the role of the media in achieving a sustainable healthy food system cannot be over emphasized as critical stakeholders in creating awareness on the hazards associated with consumption of unhealthy food products including foods high in trans-fat content.

“I therefore urge the media to embrace the advocacy for improved nutrition and healthy diet by advocating for the quick passage of the much-needed regulation towards the elimination of trans fat from foods and oils.

“Our ask therefore are as follows: The gazetting of the draft trans-fat regulation and swift implementation so as to safe guard the lives of the citizens.

“The need for government to continue sensitization of citizens on the dangers of transfat consumption and
The need for continuous collaborations between the civil society organizations and government.

“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.”

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The Nutrition Policy Advisor at Resolve to Save Lives, Dr Maryam Al-Mansur, in a statement explained that the World Food Day is celebrated yearly on October 16, to raise awareness about food security, sustainable food systems and healthy diets for all.

“The World Food Day draws our attention and beams light on crucial issues that affect the food we eat. Artificial trans-fat is a harmful compound that increases the risk of heart attack and death. It is also associated with other chronic illnesses, including cancers and obesity.

“Trans-fat can be eliminated by replacing it with healthier fats and oil alternatives, without necessarily changing the taste of food and at no additional cost. Artificial trans-fat is estimated to cause an annual death of 540,000 people, globally. In Nigeria, there is a 74% prevalence of unhealthy diets in the population as lighted in the Nigeria National Multi-Sectoral Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases (2019-2025). While WHO reports that trans-fat is responsible for an estimated 1,300 deaths annually.

“Artificial trans-fat can be eliminated from the world by 2023 through collaborative efforts. Resolve to Save Lives supports the World Health Organization’s action package that provides a step-by-step guide for the elimination of trans-fat from the global food supply. We work with global, national and in-country partners to support development of regulations and policies and scale up proven strategies to eliminate trans-fat and increase availability of healthier alternatives.

“We also support countries to test trans-fats in foods and build their capacity to meet and obtain WHO certification for laboratory testing of trans-fats.

“In Nigeria, we are closely working with our in-country partner, Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), who in turn supports government agencies and local partners in activities related to eliminating trans-fat in the food supply.

“We particularly commend the work of GHAI with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and its parent ministry, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) in their efforts to pass the trans-fat regulation in Nigeria.

“The benefits of eliminating trans-fat have been demonstrated by many countries who have passed trans-fat regulations. Denmark, for example, was the first country to remove artificial trans-fat in 2004 and reduced deaths from cardiovascular disease in its population.

“So far, over 40 countries across the globe have taken steps to eliminate trans-fat in their food supply to zero, by 2023, through enacting trans-fat regulations.”

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