• By: Shahid Ali Tareen

There is nothing more important than human health which needs serious attention. For a country to prosper, it is important that the policy makers need to be proactive in order to protect and improve the public health. One major aspect that requires grave attention of policy makers is the regulation on iTFAs.

A poison that lurks in every kind of food consumed by people. As the World Health Organization (WHO) mandate states, the standard level of industrially produced trans fatty acids (iTFAs) must be kept below than 2% in dietary products. By 2% it is meant that every 100 grams of ghee or dietary products must only contain 2 grams of industrially produced trans fatty acids otherwise it can have severe impacts on the health of the human being. Therefore, the key stakeholders must take major steps to meet the standard value of trans fatty acid consumption in dietary products to avoid the rising patterns of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs).

The stats relating to public health are very concerning in the country. Among other NCDs, overweight and obesity are on the rise in Pakistan. According to the NCDs STEP survey 2014-15 in Pakistan, 41.3% of adults of the total population of Pakistan were obese or overweight, while 37% of adults had hypertension. According to a World Health Organization report, in 2016 cardiovascular diseases stood among the top killers of Pakistanis with 29% deaths among the total deaths in the country.

According to the 10th edition of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) 2021 Diabetes Atlas, Pakistan has the 3rd highest burden of type 2 diabetes worldwide with more than 33 million cases with additional I0 million termed as pre-diabetic. These unhealthy conditions of the Pakistani population are also evident in causes of mostly premature deaths., It is, therefore necessary to strictly limit the consumption of iTFAs that can be achieved through best policy practice.

The government needs to take strict measures to guarantee healthier dietary products for the citizens of Pakistan and to do that, regulations on iTFAs is the only plausible solution. It is the responsibility of the government institutions to bring nutritional value and healthier food products in the market in order to decrease disease burden as well as lower the budget expenses that are used to treat these diseases.

If no immediate policy action is taken, the number of people living with diabetes will reach 62 million by 2045. Moreover, the IDF estimated $2640 million as expenditure of diabetes in 2021 in Pakistan and in 2015, the annual cost of obesity was estimated to be PKRs 428 billion by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. The state of other NCDs is no better in the country.

Keeping in view these alarming situations the government must take immediate policy measures to ensure public health of the citizens. The role of civil society organizations (CSOs) is also influential under the circumstances. Pakistan coalition of CSOs have come to together to advocate for iTFA regulations and urging the government to take stringent steps.

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