Activists start campaign to regulate processed fats

Thursday September 16 2021
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Trans-fats are common in such foods. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Elizabeth Kamurungi

Health activists under their umbrella, Uganda National Health Consumers’ Organisation, (UNHCO) Thursday started a campaign ‘‘to get the country on track to regulate and replace the use and consumption of industrially-processed fats also known as trans-fats.’’

The campaign is in line with directives set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eliminate industrially-produced trans-fat/oils from national food supplies by 2023.

Trans-fats are formed through an industrial process that adds hydrogen to vegetable oil- which causes the oil to become solid at room temperature. Experts however say most processed and junk foods increase the intake of the dangerous fat.

According to the WHO, intake of such fats is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease mortality accounting for approximately 500,000 annual premature deaths worldwide.

The campaign dubbed REPLACE, will focus on seven key steps including embracing healthier alternatives, enacting regulatory actions and ensure enforcement of policies and regulations.

The campaign will also put emphasis on awareness creation around the impacts of the fats to equip consumers and policy-makers with information to make better choices. 

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Dr Tadeo Rusoke, a researcher and lecture at Nkumba Univesrity said increased intake of processed fat also amplifies vulnerability to type two diabetes and stroke. 

“We need to have a limit on how much should be trans-fat to gain safer levels,” he said.

Dr Rusoke highlighted ‘‘2 grams and below’’ as the safest levels of processed fat.

Countries like Canada and USA have classified some fats as harmful food additives, instead opting for healthy fat.

The Uganda National Health Consumers Organisation legal officer, Mr Moses Talibita said there is a regulatory gap when in trans-fat control since the country currently lacks laws to regulate the production of such fats or to limit the levels that should be contained in fats.

“We are not saying let us do away with fat completely but there are healthier alternatives. I know industry will counter argue, fronting the argument of loss of jobs…someone said these producers bring in revenue to government but  a lot more is spent on treating diseases attributed to these products,” he warned during the event at Protea hotel in Kampala.

The activists argue that replacement with healthier oils like sunflower or olive oil is by far a better option.

Ms Robinah Kaitiritimba, the executive director UNHCO said they are aware of the challenges ahead of such a campaign, including contending with large and powerful producers.

Ms  Kaitiritimba however said to avert the effects of the fats, producers and consumers alike have to be engaged and will requires a lifestyle shifts from the now trendy fast foods.

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