Civil Society Organizations Unite to Combat Diseases by Curbing iTFAs in All Dietary Sources

The Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Nadeem Jan expressed that the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination is committed to taking all possible measures to regulate industrially produced trans-fatty acids in all foods and reduce consumption of unhealthy diets to save precious lives. He expressed his thoughts during his meeting with a coalition of organizations, including the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI), Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA), Pakistan National Heart Association and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI). The purpose of this meeting was to draw the Federal Minister’s attention to the rising incidence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) linked to the prevalence of industrially produced trans fatty acids (iTFAs) in Pakistani dietary sources.
He further said “We are ready to call upon an inter-ministerial meeting with Ministry of Science and Technology to help regulate industrially produced trans-fatty acids in all foods, and to adopt the best practice policy,”.
The organizations collectively recommended a series of actions to the Ministry of National Health Services, Coordination and Regulation (MoNHSC&R). They also urged the government to combat the consumption of unhealthy foods through a complete ban on the procurement and serving of ultra-processed food items, especially the sweet drinks in official meetings and functions.
Industrially produced trans fatty acids are recognized contributors to NCDs, such as diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases. It is crucial to note that 29% of deaths in Pakistan are attributed to cardiovascular diseases, and 43 million Pakistanis suffer from hypertension. With 44 million people in the country either living with diabetes or being pre-diabetic, Pakistan currently holds the top position among countries in terms of diabetes prevalence.
According to Munawar Hussain, In-country Representative of GHAI, “Non-communicable diseases are undermining Pakistan’s economic welfare gains, and contributing to reduced productivity of the human resources. They also diminish the life expectancy of the population and render it vulnerable to various forms of disabilities. Industrially produced trans fats, prevalent in a large number of food items in our markets, pose a major threat to public health.”
Emphasizing the need for mandatory government-led regulation of iTFAs, Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed, Executive Director of CPDI, stated, “We urge the Ministry of National Health to lead the process and work with the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) to establish mandatory regulations limiting iTFAs to less than 2% in all food items, as recommended by WHO guidelines.”
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The coalition also proposed to eliminate government subsidies through Utility Stores Corporation on harmful food products like banaspati ghee and sugar, and redirect subsidies toward healthier options like fruits, vegetables, lentils and whole grain wheat flour. Mr. Munawar Hussain added, “It is essential to ensure that subsidies support nutritious foods in the best interest of public health rather than those high in harmful ingredients such as iTFAs and sugar.”
The Federal Minister of Health also indicated that the Ministry had decided to ban the serving of sugar-sweetened beverages in its official events and would be issuing an advisory to the other ministries to follow suit.
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In 2023, PYCA launched the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign, aimed at raising public awareness and generating public demand and policy support for the elimination of iTFAs from all food sources. Afshar Iqbal, Director of Communications and Advocacy at PYCA, stated, “Our campaign is a call to action, advocating for mandatory policies that safeguard public health.”
By working collaboratively, these organizations aim to contribute to the creation of a healthier food environment and reduce the rising burden of NCDs in the Pakistani population.