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Picture for illustrative purposes: trans fat food Image Credit: Stock

Dubai: The UAE should eliminate trans fats to protect health and save lives of people, a member of the Federal National Council said, quoting World Health Organisaton (WHO) estimates that every year, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease.

Dherar Humaid Belhoul Al Falasi, a member of the House from Dubai, demanded that the Government fast-track the ban on trans fat and enforce compliance of WHO policies and regulations on bad fat as early as possible, considering their serious impact on health.

Al Falasi said manufacturers should replace trans fat — also called trans fatty acids — with healthier fat this year and not wait until 2023 as planned by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

Al Falasi estimated that the UAE cost of healthcare of ill people as a result of trans fats hits Dh4 billion annually.

UAE Minister of Economy Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansoori vowed to fast-track enforcement of eliminating trans fats, one or two years ahead of the set deadline of 2023, considering the UAE’s commitments to locally to manufacturers and importers and regionally at the GCC level.

Al Mansoori told the House that by 2023, the UAE will ban trans fat that increases bad cholesterol, lowers good cholesterol and damages blood vessels.

The move is in keeping with the WHO strategic plan for 2019–2023, which aims to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from the global food supply, said a report by the ministry, which was submitted to the FNC.

Trans fat is considered the worst type of fat one can eat. Unlike other dietary fats, trans fat raises one’s low density lipoprotein (LDL) “bad cholesterol” and lowers high density lipoprotein (HDL) “good cholesterol”.

Strict controls

Al Mansoori said the House member’s proposals will be taken into consideration and presented to the the authorities for action.

He added the ministry was working with its partners to implement Federal Law No.10 of 2015 on Food Safety and its executive regulations, which includes strict controls and standards to ensure food safety throughout the food chain. The law aims to establish systems to monitor and inspect food at facilities and entry ports, creating a national food accreditation and registration system, establishing of a rapid food and feed alert system throughout the food chain, developing mechanisms for the exchange of information at the national and global levels, as well as raising community awareness of best food practices.

A diet laden with trans fat increases one’s risk of heart disease. Last year, WHO released REPLACE, a step-by-step guide for elimination of industrially-produced trans fatty acids from the global food supply.

Industrially produced trans fats are contained in hardened vegetable fats, such as margarine and ghee, and are often present in snack food, baked foods and fried foods. Manufacturers often use them as they have a longer shelf life than other fats. But healthier alternatives can be used without affecting the taste or cost of food.

The REPLACE guide

WHO calls on governments to use the REPLACE action package to eliminate industrially-produced trans fatty acids from the food supply. REPLACE provides six strategic actions to ensure the prompt, complete, and sustained elimination of industrially-produced trans fat from the food supply:

  • Review dietary sources of industrially-produced trans fat and the landscape for required policy change
  • Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fat with healthier fat and oils
  • Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fat
  • 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 trans fats among policymakers, producers, suppliers, and the public
  • Enforce compliance of policies and regulations