Health advocates caution Nigerians against high level of TFAs in foods

By EDU ABADE, Business Editor

Public health advocates from the public and private sectors as well as civil society groups have, again, cautioned Nigerians against the consumption of foods containing high levels of industrially produced Trans Fatty Acids (TFAs).

They stated this at a training organised for journalists by the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) drawn from print, broadcast and online media in the five South East states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states on effective reporting of trans fats.

The two-day training organised in collaboration with the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) in Enugu was funded by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) and facilitated by local and international public health, media and communications experts including Country Director of GHAI, Joy Amafah, Executive Director of NHED, Dr. Jerome Mafeni and representative of the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Eva Edwards, who shared insights on the status of NAFDAC regulations on trans fats.

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The training module targeted building the capacity of Nigerian journalists to understand and exhaustively report on TFAs and its link with poor health for consumers, strengthening the relationship between Nigerian journalists, civil society advocating a trans fat-free Nigeria and regulatory agencies, particularly NAFDAC and sharing knowledge on local, national and global issues relating to TFAs and the oils and fats industry.

Enugu State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Ikechukwu Obi, who was special guest at the event, explained that the goal of the allied with the vision of the Enugu State Government for healthy citizens as espoused in its health sector reform law, which provided for a legal framework for citizens’ participation in health sector and the setting of new standards for health research and information system management.

Obi noted that the high levels of trans fat in foods consumed by Nigerians, from the fast foods to re-used oils, meant the country was sitting on a keg of gun powder that might explode any time in form of cardiovascular diseases of all kinds.

He revealed that in 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that cardiovascular diseases remained the leading cause of deaths globally and that in 2020, an estimated 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular diseases, representing 32 per cent of global deaths.

The commissioner also explained that 85 per cent of the deaths were due to heart attacks and stroke, adding that if public health advocates learnt anything in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the realisation that working together, the challenges that threaten the collective well-being of the citizenry could be overcome.

He also commended NAFDAC for approving the draft Fats and Oils Regulation 2019 and the Pre-Packaged Foods, Water and Ice Labelling Regulations 2019, insisting that once the regulations were gazetted, Nigeria would join the list of countries that have effective regulations to limit or eliminate trans fats in the diets of its citizens.

Earlier, Executive Director of CAPPA, Akinbode Oluwafemi, explained that the training was informed by the need to empower the media to better report trans fats and amplify advocacy of the Transfat-free Nigeria coalition.

Oluwafemi explained that what was being consumed should be everyone’s business, hence the importance of a well-informed media in getting the right message to ordinary Nigerians and policy makers to elicit the change that the #Transfatfree Nigeria coalition has been canvassing.

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