The Network for Health Equity and Development (NHED) and the Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) have urged the Nigerian government to prioritise access to safe and nutritious food for all Nigerians, especially the poor and vulnerable that are hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
NHED and CAPPA also want the Governing Council of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to speedily approve the guidelines and regulations on the use of fats and oils, as well as pre-packaged foods, water and ice labeling which has strong provisions on trans fats.
The two organisations made the recommendations in Abuja on Friday, October 16, 2020 at a press briefing to commemorate the World Food Day 2020 which has “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together” as its theme.
Dr. Jerome Mafeni, Project Adviser for Trans Fatty Acids Elimination, NHED, explained that it was time for all Nigerians concerned about the growing incidences of people dying from coronary heart diseases and other ailments to get the message to political decision-makers and food makers to restrict and replace trans fats, and expand access to healthy foods.
Mafeni explained that, beyond coronary heart diseases, trans fats have been linked to increases in the risk of diabetes, obesity, cancers, dementia and death, even as he added that estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show that over 250,000 persons die yearly resulting from complications associated with the consumption of foods high in trans fats.
He stressed that the role of dietary fats and oils in human nutrition is one of the most complex and controversial areas of investigations in nutrition science. Because of its complexity, the joint WHO/FAO Export Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Disease held in Geneva in 2002 recognised that the growing epidemic of chronic disease afflicting both developed and developing countries was related to dietary and lifestyle changes.
Earlier, CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi, explained that, in the world over, critical attention is being paid to what people eat, and that the public health of a nation largely depends on what its citizens consume.
Oluwafemi, who was represented by CAPPA Director of Programmes, Philip Jakpor, referred to the 2018 WHO REPLACE initiative, which sets a roadmap for governments to remove trans-fat from food supplies as the path that Nigeria must follow if it is to take leadership on the African continent in eliminating trans fats.
According to him, Nigeria, with a huge and vulnerable population, must not take the back seat in the global war against trans fats which, he insisted, is now a bomb waiting to explode.
Jakpor stressed that there was therefore need for increased awareness on the dangers of consuming foods high in trans fats and urged the Nigerian government to compel the oils and fats and the fast-food industry to comply with global best practice in relation to trans fats in the processing of their products.