GENEVA: Pakistan is among the countries where industrially-produced fat still poses a risk to a considerable number of the population, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

Industrially-produced trans fat is often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads.

The WHO called in 2018 for harmful trans fatty acids to be wiped out by 2023. They are thought to be responsible for around 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year.

Nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat intake were not implementing best-practice policies.

Global health body appeals for $2.54bn funds

They include Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea.

The WHO called on the countries to take urgent action to implement the best-practice policies.

Although 43 countries with combined populations of 2.8 billion people have now implemented best-practice policies, most of the world remains unprotected, it said.

“Put simply, trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all,” the WHO said.

WHO acknowledged in an annual progress report that the goal was still out of sight. “Trans fat has no known benefit, and huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems,” WHO director-general Tedros Adh­­anom Ghebreyesus said.

“By contrast, eliminating trans fat is cost-effective and has enormous benefits for health,” he said.

Francesco Branca, the WHO’s nutrition and food safety director, told reporters that trans fat elimination policies were in place in 60 countries, covering 3.4bn people or 43 per cent of the world’s population.

Of those countries, 43 are implementing best practice standards.

Best practice means either a mandatory nat­ional limit of two grams of industrially-produced trans fat per 100g of total fat in all foods; or a national ban on the production or use of partially-hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of trans fat.

Separately, as the global health agency deals with a number of emergencies across the world, including the war in Ukraine, health impacts of conflicts in Yemen, Afgh­anistan, Syria and Ethiopia and floods in Pakistan, it appealed for more funds to continue its work.

The WHO appealed for $2.54bn to help millions facing health emergencies around the world in 2023. The WHO said it was currently responding to an unprecedented number of intersecting health emergencies.

And all of these emergencies, it stressed, overlap with the massive health system disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and outbreaks of other deadly diseases like measles and cholera.“We’re witnessing an unprecedented convergence of crises that dem­ands an unprecedented response,” the WHO chief said.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2023

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