ISLAMABAD-Speakers at an advocacy seminar called for urgent steps to eliminate trans fatty acids from the food supply in Pakistan to reduce the incidence of heart disease and reduce mortality risk from infectious diseases like COVID-19.

The event was jointly co-hosted by the Ministry of National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, World Health Organization and public health think tank Heartfile to discuss regulatory actions and finalise a National Action Plan to reduce trans fatty acid (TFA) in the Pakistani diet.

The event was chaired by Special Advisor to Prime Minister (SAPM) social protection Dr. Sania Nishtar, and included participation from Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr. Nausheen Hamid, Director General Health Dr. Muhammad Safi, Director Nutrition Dr. Baseer Achakzai, WHO-EMRO Regional Director Dr. Ayoub Al-Jawaldeh as well as WHO Country Representative for Pakistan Dr. Palitha Mahipala. Representatives from provincial food authorities, provincial health departments, producers, civil society and academia also attended the meeting. 

Opening the proceedings, Dr. Achakzai of MoNHSR&C said that TFA elimination was a priority area for the government and a simple way to reduce NCD prevalence in the country.

Joining the meeting virtually, Dr. Ayoub Al Jawaldeh, Regional Director Nutrition, WHO EMRO office appreciated the work of Pakistan for elimination of trans fats in the food supply.

Addressing the gathering, WHO Country Representative Dr. Mahipala appreciated the efforts of Ministry of Health for its work to assess TFA levels in Pakistan and prepare a plan for its elimination. He cited the examples of other countries around the world, from Denmark to Canada, Argentina and Iran, to explain what practices around the world had been successful in eliminating TFAs from the food supply. Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Nausheen Hamid Parliamentary Secretary for MoNHSR&C said that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) were becoming a major cause of mortality and morbidity in the developing world including Pakistan.

She said Pakistan’s trans fat intake is estimated to be the 2nd highest in the WHO-EMRO region after Egypt, at nearly 6% of daily energy intake whereas the WHO recommends limiting TFA intake to less than 1% of energy per day. She expressed the hope that the collaborative efforts of the government, WHO, provincial authorities and civil society would result in effective action for eliminating trans fats and improving public health.

Addressing the meeting, SAPM on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar said that NCDs were the main health challenge facing Pakistan and TFA was a major contributor to NCDs in the country.