• By: Muhammad Faisal

Industrially produced trans fats (iTFA) are one of the leading risk factors that contribute to the burden of non-communicable diseases (NCD) in Pakistan. Research also indicates that due to harmful effects of trans fats many countries have done intensive work to curb these silent killers from food sources but there are still several countries where trans fats are a looming threat to public health. Pakistan is one such country where the battle with trans fats and NCDs continues to be underway.

Realising this global issue, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised countries to adopt the best-practice policy to either limit iTFAs to 2% per 100g of total fat in all dietary sources or to ban partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), which is the biggest source of trans fat in food items.

Pakistan’s public health landscape shows an alarming situation. The country is dealing with an epidemic of a with a sharp and consistent rise in NCDs. This demands that the government should take stringent steps to achieve one of the two policy practices recommended by WHO.

Based on the country context, government’s role indeed remains pivotal but it is also 1necessary to note the importance of raising awareness among the general public. This is important not merely to ensure that people are well-informed about the hazards of trans fats but are also motivated to actively demand the regulation and elimination of trans fats from their daily diets.

Realizing this, civil society organisations in Pakistan launched a nationwide campaign, TRANSFORM Pakistan, aimed at spreading awareness about the hazards of trans fats to garner support for necessary regulatory and legislative changes. As part of this effort, the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign has also on boarded the largest demographic segment in the country, i.e., the youth.

Multiple youth groups are actively advocating on ground. As a result, initiatives like the Illuminate Impact Foundation in Peshawar have emerged, mobilising young activists to raise awareness and advocate for change. Through seminars and educational campaigns, these dedicated youth forums are empowering the younger generation to take action against iTFAs.

The forum is dedicated and is in the phase to expand their outreach efforts across various regions of Peshawar. This youth forum recently took charge and arranged various foundation meetings and public seminars. These included a seminar in the Department of Journalism and Mass communication, University of Peshawar and another seminar in Khyber Medical College, Peshawar.

With youth and multiple CSOs onboard regulatory bodies must work closely with them to regulate and ultimately eliminate iTFAs. While working with the civil society to ensure regulation, there are other ways through which the regulatory process can gain momentum, such as tax breaks or subsidies for companies that adopt healthier cooking oils and production methods. Such collaborative efforts between the government, industry, and public health organisations are essential to drive meaningful change in this regard.

By implementing comprehensive policies, promoting consumer awareness, and fostering collaboration between stakeholders, we can effectively reduce iTFA intake and improve the overall health and well-being of the population. It is time for Pakistan to take decisive action against trans fats and pave the way for a healthier future.

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