– Says compliance mandatory for curbing cardiovascular diseases burden
For the high mortality rate of cardiovascular diseases in Nigeria to be reduced to the barest minimum, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has mandated all manufacturers of foods and beverages in the country to comply with its regulation on the elimination of industrially produced trans fatty acids (TFAs) and reduction of sodium from foods and beverages produced in the country. The agency says this will ultimately help in reducing the incidences of stroke, heart attack, and other heart diseases.
NAFDAC Director General, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, noted that deaths from coronary heart diseases in Nigeria reached 53,836 or 2.82 per cent of total deaths, and is responsible for the greatest proportion of the total mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs). She added that nearly 70 per cent of deaths that occur globally every year are due to NCDs, while cardiovascular diseases account for half of the deaths from NCDs.
With TFAs and sodium levels implicated in the surge of cardiovascular diseases locally and globally, Adeyeye averred that it is incumbent on local producers of foods and beverages to comply with the agency’s regulation, as it is in alignment with World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendations. According to WHO, total saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol intakes should be less than 10 per cent and 1 per cent of total energy intake, which translates to less than 20 gram per day and 2.2 gram per day, respectively.
Adeyeye, who made the disclosure at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos with the theme “lipid and cardiovascular health”, organised by the Nigerian Heart Foundation (NHF), emphasised that the regulation is also one of the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 3, 4).
According to the NAFDAC boss, who was represented at the symposium by her Special Assistant, Dr Gbenga Fajemirokun, “Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally, and efforts at controlling this scourge has led to the development of several regulations, amongst which are the Fats and Oils Regulation; Pre-packaged Food (Labelling) Regulations; Food Fortification with Vitamin A Regulation, and Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations. Efforts at collaboration among stakeholders, which is one of the latest forums, was predicated on the elimination of industrially produced TFAs and reduction of sodium in Nigeria for supply chain.
“Sodium reduction and elimination of industrially produced TFAs will contribute to the creation of an enabling food environment, which promotes healthy diets and help achieve the global nutrition and diet-related NCD target endorsed by the World Health Assembly (WHA) and committed to at the second International Conference on Nutrition and the Decade of Action on Nutrition (2016-2-25).”
She added: “The role of NAFDAC is in regulating and controlling the manufacture, importation, exportation, advertisement, distribution, sale and use of foods, drugs and other regulated products in a way that positively impacts on cardiovascular health.
“Food manufacturers may come to the assistance of consumers wishing to avoid the health threats from saturated and trans fats by reducing the saturated and trans fats in some of their standards,” she said.
Adeyeye also advised the consuming public to modify their eating habit, by cutting out saturated fat, increasing omega-3 fatty acids and monosaturated fats, and eating more fruits and vegetables, saying this can make a big difference in their health and well-being.
“Replacing both saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may be the most effective global strategy in preventing cardiovascular disease,” she said.
Adeyeye further stated that substituting saturated and trans fats with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats lowers blood cholesterol and pressure, prevents blood clots and protects against irregular heartbeats.
Also speaking at the event, Dr Femi Mobolaji-Lawal, chairman, Executive Council, NHF, reiterated the views of the NAFDAC DG, saying what people eat have a direct link with their heart health. He said this explains the reason behind NHF’s front-of-pack label, which encourages transparency, adding that it is essential for stakeholders to follow regulations and good production practice.
Mobolaji-Lawal urged consumers to embrace heart-healthy oils and fats in replacement of saturated and trans fats, while also enjoining regulators and government to invest in monitoring and surveillance mechanisms, while improving laboratory capacity and scaling up to meet regional, national, and international standards.
Speaking on the view of NHF on lipid and cardiovascular health in 2023, the Executive Director of the Foundation, Dr Kingsley K. Akinroye, reiterated its recommendation for a limit of no more than 1 per cent of the total trans-fat content of cooking oils and of the total content in all other foods, stating that the report has been submitted to the Minister of Health.
Akinroye who is also a consultant cardiologist further disclosed that the World Heart Federation (WHF), the parent international body of NHF, recently released the criteria on foods containing palm oil derivatives/ Saturated Fatty Acids (SAFAs) in line with Codex and recommended SAFA maximum limit of 30mg/100 of total fat in foods.
The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and WHO of the United Nations relating to food, food production, food labeling, and food safety.
He stated that all country members of WHF, including Nigeria are expected to comply with the recommendations, while revealing that since inception of the NHF Front of Pack Labelling in 2003, in collaboration with NAFDAC, the NGO has adopted the upper limit of SAFA as 36g/100g of total fat acceptable to all products permitted to carry NHF Heart Mark Logo.
The heart specialist particularly emphasised the new stand of NHF on SAFAs, saying that the organisation has now made a position statement to adopt the acceptable level of SAFAs of 30g/100g of total fat from June 30, 2024 for all food products to carry the NHF Heart Mark Logo, and total trans fat of zero (0.00) limit for certification or recertification.