The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has recommended that Ghana should adopt mandatory nutrition labelling towards the reduction of trans fatty acids (TFAs) in the country’s food supply system.
It also called for the enhancement of the country’s laboratories to carry out the necessary tests while conducting research towards the determination of the maximum limit for TFA in foods in Ghana.
It said a two per cent reduction of TFA in vegetable oils and margarines and five per cent in all other foods may be considered for adoption because Ghana is primarily an importing country, therefore placing strict restriction may impede trade.
The FDA made the recommendations when it presented a Legislative and Regulatory Desk Review Report of Existing Measures in Elimination of Trans fat at a day’s forum organized by the Institute of Leadership and Development (INSLA), a non-profit civil society orgranisation (CSO) in Accra.
The forum was to validate the Report for empirical data upon which the INSLA and the country as a whole could have a clear path to pursue in the attainment of the WHO REPLACE campaign on the elimination of TFA in Ghanaian foods by 2023.
The REPLACE serves as a roadmap for countries to implement six actions to reduce and eliminate industrially produced TFA and the INSLA is the lead CSO in the campaign in Ghana.
The six actions are to Review dietary sources of trans fats and the landscape for required policy change, Promote the replacement of trans fat with healthier fats and oils, and legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate trans-fat.
The rest are to Assess and monitor trans-fat content in the food supply and changes in trans-fat consumption in the population, create awareness of the negative health impact of TFA among policymakers, producers, suppliers, and the public, and Enforce compliance with policies and regulations thus (REview, Promote, Legislate, Assess, Create Awareness, enforce – REPLACE).
The Report said currently there was no existing regulatory and legislative measures to reduce trans-fat in foods in Ghana.
“Nutrient declaration is not mandatory; consequently, when TFA-related nutrition and health claims are made on food products, the Food and Drugs Authority requires nutrient declaration (including TFA content) and substantiation,” it stated.
It said there were three major existing regulatory measures worldwide being employed to reduce trans-fat; set mandatory maximum limits in foods, total ban on partially hydrogenated oils and/or mandatory labelling.
There are two main sources for trans fats: natural sources (in the dairy products and meat of ruminants such as cows and sheep) and industrially-produced sources (partially hydrogenated oils.)
Mr Issah Ali, the Project Manager of INSLA said the Review Report would be used as a guide to go together with public education on the health risks of the consumption of trans-fat while advocating for the passage of regulations.
“It would be difficult to say that we must educate the entire Ghanaians before we push for legislation. It does not happen that way; normally we adopt multi-strategies/tactics while dealing with the education, policies, and legislation,” he said.
Mr Ali said the Report had already highlighted the challenges by acknowledging the fact for the undertaking of research and laboratory capacity challenges, adding; “But we believe the Report is a guide that would take us through to what we want to do and achieve the ultimate purpose of eliminating TFA.”
Mr Benjamin Anabila, the Director of INSLA quoting the WHO and the Ministry of Health figures respectively said globally, at least 500,000 people die annually through heart disease caused by TFAs and in Ghana it contributed to 12,000 to 16,00 stroke cases recorded each year in Ghana.
“It is therefore incumbent on all of us to consider this as a national health risk and matter of serious concerns so as to take action to address it,” he stated.
Mr Anabila expressed gratitude to Vital Strategies, Resolve to save life/links, the Ministry of Health, the FDA, Ghana Health Service, National Health Insurance Authority and the WHO for their support from the onset of the campaign project.