20 Jul 2021 — The Philippines’ Department of Health has adopted a new administrative order to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from its food supply by 2023 – becoming the 45th country to do so.
Specifically, the new policy aims to reduce Filipinos’ trans fatty acids intake to less than 1 percent of their recommended total energy intake.
“Trans fatty acids have no health benefits,” Luis Raymund Villafuerte, House Deputy Speaker, remarks. “The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that trans fatty acids elimination is considered as one of the simplest public health interventions to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and improve the nutritional quality of diets.”
According to the WHO, noncommunicable diseases kill 41 million people each year, equivalent to 71 percent of all deaths globally. In the Philippines, these long-duration illnesses account for 68 percent of all deaths.
“Today, the Philippines adopted a best-practice policy to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from its food supply,” says Dr. Tom Frieden, president and CEO of global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives.
“We applaud the Philippines Department of Health for this bold commitment that will protect more than 108 million people from trans fat, which is deemed a dangerous chemical food additive that increases the risk of heart attack and death,” Dr. Frieden comments.
“With the new administrative order banning partially-hydrogenated oils – the main sources of industrially produced trans fat – and limiting trans fat content in all fats and oils to 2 percent, the Philippines establishes itself as a leader in the Western Pacific Region, where an estimated more than 3.5 million tons of partially hydrogenated oils are sold each year (almost a third of the global market).”
Global trans-fat elimination agenda
Since its conception in 2018, the WHO REPLACE initiative to make the global food market trans fat-free by 2023 continues to gain momentum.
Last November, WHO piloted industry’s first certification program to recognize countries that have eliminated industrially produced trans fatty acids from their food supplies.
Across industry, businesses have established reformulation strategies to meet this 2023 target, with twelve of the largest global F&B companies already committed to this ambition.
“The Philippines is the latest country to prioritize saving lives, following India’s adoption of a best practice trans fat elimination policy in April,” highlights Dr. Frieden.
“As the US National Academy of Medicine concluded, there is no safe level of consumption of this artificial, toxic product. The sale of millions of tons of this product in Asia is a risk to people throughout the region. The Philippines shows the way to rapidly protect health against this entirely unnecessary harmful chemical.”
In the Asia-Pacific region, Thailand became the first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) country that successfully eliminated the industrial trans fatty acids in their food supply by disallowing the production and importation of partially hydrogenated oils and its products.
A lack of oversight?
The WHO recently released a global laboratory protocol for measuring trans fats, or trans fatty acids, in foods.
The protocol details a harmonized approach for sample collection and storage, analytical methodologies, calculations of fat content and quality assurance and control criteria.
When implemented, these harmonized assessments can be adapted for measuring trans fatty acids levels in national food supplies in a range of settings.
This way, countries can collect data on trans fatty acid levels in foods to inform policy decisions, monitor changes over time and track compliance with national policies.
But studies related to trans fat consumption in the Philippines are also lacking, as highlighted by peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.
“Trans fat elimination can save more than 17 million lives over the next 25 years and prevent at least twice as many heart attacks,” stresses Dr. Frieden. “All governments that have not yet done so must follow the Philippines’ lead and protect their people from this toxic ingredient.”
“Action to eliminate industrially produced trans fats saves lives, saves money, promotes health equity and builds regulatory systems that can improve food safety overall.”
By Benjamin Ferrer
This feature is provided by FoodIngredientsFirst’s sister website, NutritionInsight.
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