BY SEGUN ADEBAYO, ABUJA As part of its efforts to mark the 2020 World Heart Day, the Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) and Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), have called for the regulation of trans fats use in Nigeria.

NHED and CAPPA, in a statement issued in Abuja, said that the World Heart Day commemorated September 29 annually reminds governments across the globe on how lifestyle changes including consumption of unhealthy food lead to ill-health, hence Nigeria must show leadership and set the pace on the African continent by ensuring the elimination of trans-fats in Nigerian foods.

According to Dr Jerome, Mafeni, the NHED Country Technical Lead: “With cardiovascular diseases as the leading cause of deaths globally and accounting for 31% of deaths, worldwide, Nigeria has what it takes to lead the charge on trans-fat on the continent.”

He explained that research findings show that trans-fat is a burden on health care systems and could overwhelm Nigeria and the African continent if concerted efforts are not made to get rid of it in foods consumed by the citizenry.

In his words, “At the moment it is very easy for people to simply make do with what they can find; especially with the devastation of COVID-19. But even as they make the choices, the onus is on the government to ensure that they are safe and not unduly exposed to harm because foods they consume.”

Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA said: “The commemoration of the World Heart Day should jolt the Nigerian government to action in stemming food-induced cardiovascular illnesses, especially as the COVID 19 pandemic continues to ravage the world.

“Not acting now to check consumption of trans-fats will rattle an already fragile health care system”

Oluwafemi pointed out that, “while the campaign for the government to pass the draft regulation on trans-fat and oils continues to progress, it needs to go hand in hand with ensuring that industry players are monitored. For now, it is the ‘Pre-Packaged Foods, Water and Ice-Labelling Regulations 2019,’ but we need take to take it beyond draft stage to concrete law.

“With 11 percent of over two million deaths in Nigeria as at 2019 attributed to cardiovascular diseases, Nigerians need to know what they are consuming and also trust that the ingredients and proportions listed in labels are true and not misleading.

Dr Laz Ude Eze who was the guest of a Tweet chat organised by CAPPA, to mark the day, said it was important for the government and Nigerians to know that without optimal health, “we have nothing. The low life expectancy should worry everyone. Therefore, we should take individual and collective responsibilities to achieve a #TransfatFreeNigeria.”

Eze, a public health specialist and host of the ‘Talk Health 9ja,’ show, in his recommendation on what needs to be done, he said there are three actions to be taken.

They include public sensitization at the community levels about trans-fats and healthier alternatives, enactment of a law to provide policy framework and the regulation of foods containing high levels of trans fats by the National Agency for Food & Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

Eze advocated that, “There should also be a deliberate effort to sensitise the public about the bill and its benefits. When the public becomes knowledgeable about it, putting pressure on the legislature to expedite action would be easier to achieve.”

The World Heart Day is a global campaign targeted at driving action to educate people that by controlling risk factors such as trans-fat consumption, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, about 80% of premature deaths related to heart disease and stroke can be avoided.

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