Heart Foundation, CAB, PROGGA hail regulation as ‘landmark’ to reduce heart disease risks

The National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, the Consumers Association of Bangladesh and PROGGA,  or Knowledge for Progress, have hailed a regulation limiting trans-fat as a “landmark step”.

The government gazetted the regulation on Monday, the organisation said in a statement on Thursday, describing it as a policy declared “the best-practice” by the World Health Organization and adopted by Bangladesh Food Safety Authority.

Around half a million people die of trans fat-induced heart diseases globally each year, according to the statement. The Limiting Trans Fatty Acids in Foodstuffs Regulations, 2021 will ensure safe food and at the same time play a pivotal role in preventing non-communicable diseases.

“The prevalence of heart diseases among young and middle-aged people has increased in recent days, for which, intake of trans fat-laden food is largely to be blamed. Implementation of the new regulation will drastically reduce the prevalence of heart diseases in the country,” said National Professor retired brigadier Abdul Malik, founding president of the National Heart Foundation.

“Bangladesh joins a growing number of countries, including India, Brazil and Turkey, that are taking steps to follow the WHO’s call to eliminate industrially produced trans-fat from their food supply by 2023,” said Vandana Shah, regional director of South Asia Programs at Global Health Advocacy Incubator.

Industrially produced Trans Fatty Acid (TFA) or trans-fat is a toxic food element. Excessive intake of trans fat causes increased risks of heart diseases, deaths owing to heart diseases, dementia, and cognitive impairment.

The prime source of trans-fat in food is partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), popularly known in the country as dalda or bonospoti-ghee. PHO or dalda is generally used in bakery items, processed and deep-fried snacks, as well as in the preparation of foods by hotels, restaurants and street food vendors.

The WHO has set the target of eliminating industrially produced trans-fat from the global food supply chain by 2023. Bangladesh Food Safety Authority has finalised the regulation on limiting trans-fat aiming to meet the target of fixing the maximum level of trans fat to 2 percent of the total fat in all oils, fats and foodstuffs by December 31, 2022.

“This regulation will play a pioneering role in safeguarding consumer health,” said CAB President Ghulam Rahman.

National Heart Foundation of Bangladesh, PROGGA, and CAB, with support from Global Health Advocacy Incubator, have undertaken a variety of policies and grassroots level initiatives to assist Bangladesh Food Safety Authority in eliminating trans-fat from foodstuffs.

The Bangladesh Country Lead of GHAI, Muhammad Ruhul Quddus, said, “Ensuring food free from trans-fat will help reduce medical costs, and at the same time increase the demand of our food products in the international market.”

A 2019 study revealed that the level of trans-fat in 92 percent of samples of leading PHO brands of Dhaka city surpasses the WHO threshold of 2 percent.

According to the WHO, Bangladesh ranks among the 15 countries with the highest burden of death owing to trans-fat-induced heart diseases.

More than 4.4 percent of the deaths from heart diseases in Bangladesh are attributable to trans-fat intake, said ABM Zubair, executive director of PROGGA.

“This regulation will surely contribute to achieving SDG goal 3.4 of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases by one- third within 2030.”