Food To Be Free Of Trans-fat By 2023: WHO

With heart diseases on a steady rise around the world, the United Nation’s World Health Organization has started an initiative named “Replace” a global campaign to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from food all over the world by 2023. This is a first-of-its-kind campaign that aims to tackle heart diseases.

“Implementing the six strategic actions in the Replace package to achieve the elimination of trans-fat will be a global win in the fight against cardiovascular disease,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO said at the unveiling of the campaign at Geneva. “Why should our children have such an unsafe ingredient in their foods,” asked Tedros, urging the governments around the world to take action soon.

Trans-fats and heart diseases

Consumption of trans-fatty acids results in more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, annually. In India, it is about 60,000 deaths as per the statement from Tom Frieden, former Head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention told Business Line. Studies say that diets high in trans-fat increase heart disease risk by 21 percent and deaths by 28 percent.

This is the first time that WHO has taken a global initiative to tackle a non-communicable disease, according to Frieden, who is presently the President and Chief Executive of Resolve to Save Lives (an initiative of non-profit organization Vital Strategies), that is involved with implementing “Replace”.

The two percentage limit

Industrially-produced trans-fat are contained in Hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, contain industrially-produced trans-fats. They are also present in most snack foods, baked foods, and fried foods. Their longer shelf life is the reason that manufacturers prefer them over other fats.

Elimination of trans-fats doesn’t mean that it will be completely stopped from being used, but that its usage will be reduced to nothing more than 2% of the food product. Denmark, which implemented this in 2003 is now proving as an example with reduced cases of cardiovascular diseases.

The Indian scenario

As far as India is concerned, this move will greatly benefit the country what with its high incidences of heart diseases and will also turn attention back on to locally produced healthier oils in place of trans-fats. Currently, India aims to bring its TFA levels to 5 percent, said Frieden, which is still a higher percentage in global standards.