The World Health Organization (WHO) had to intervene to prohibit the use of industrially produced trans-fat in food production as evidence displayed that it is toxic and raises cardiovascular disease risk factors. In 2018, the WHO introduced the REPLACE package with the goal of removing all trans fats from the world’s food supply. WHO collaborated with countries all over the world to get them to sign up for this initiative. The REPLACE package’s goal is to provide a feasible framework that will assist countries in eliminating artificially added harmful fats from all foods by 2023, which is only a few weeks away.
A diet high in trans-fat is associated with elevated levels of bad cholesterol and a corresponding drop in good cholesterol. There are two kinds of trans fat: the natural kind called ruminant trans-fat, and the unnatural kind that is made in factories. The natural form is found in foods like meat and dairy products. They are made by bacteria in the stomachs of animals when they eat grass. They don’t hurt the health of the consumer, so there’s no reason to worry about them. Industrial trans-fat, which is unhealthy, is produced artificially. The WHO said Trans fats are made in factories and can be found in hardened vegetable fats like margarine and ghee. They are often found in snack foods, baked goods, and fried foods. Often used by manufacturers because they last longer than other fats.
Nigeria should review its 2005 legislation on fat and oils.
Before the coronavirus struck in 2019, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) acted in response to a policy advocacy campaign led by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in Nigeria to check its 2005 regulations on fats and oils in order to reflect the international standard and address the public’s desire for food free of toxic substances, particularly trans-fat. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic presented a lot of problems, the agency opened its arms to campaigners, advocates, researchers, and everyone else who had a stake in the situation. They could all contribute to the process and help Nigerians stay safe.
Since Nigerians are the intended beneficiaries, all initiatives aimed at achieving the 2023 deadline have been designed to support them and ease adaptation for Nigerians. Some of these are street awareness, vox pops, making the community aware, and school visits. Media engagements were also done on both traditional and new media platforms. More than 100 journalists from all over the country were trained, and a group of young individuals with digital and advocacy skills was found and built to spread the message to both the government and the public.
The REPLACE framework is channeled at eliminating trans-fat.
Over the past two years, Nigeria has worked with relevant agencies and stakeholders on four of the six modules of the REPLACE framework, which stands for Review, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create, and Enforce simultaneously. But this two that are, Legislate and Enforce, are the most important. To achieve the Nigeria’s 2023 goal, the country needs to publish the “Fat and Oils, Regulations” as soon as possible. This would put Nigeria on the enviable list of countries that have laws against the use of trans fat in food or at least limit it to 2g/100g, which is considered safe.
Policy watchers think Nigeria could perhaps do even more because the goal for 2023 is to get rid of it completely. This can only happen if mandatory regulations are put in place and enforced for the industry players instead of the voluntary regulations proposed by several food producers who would rather make this a campaign to change people’s behavior and continue to put their profits ahead of the public’s health. By getting rid of trans fats from Nigeria’s food supply, the risk of heart disease will go down, people’s health costs will go down, and people’s health will get significantly better.
Nigeria and decision-makers should work to curb the regulations bottleneck.
Moreover, politics and holiday planning are in the spotlight as the year comes to a close. The festive season, which will see an increase in the consumption of packaged and fried foods, also carries some risks because Nigerians tend to eat excessively during this time. It is also the right time for key decision-makers to step up and take decisive action to get the regulations done by getting rid of the bureaucratic roadblocks that are keeping the regulations from being published and saving the lives of thousands of Nigerians.