GENEVA: Five billion people are exposed to higher heart disease risks through trans-fat, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, calling out countries that have failed to act against the toxic substance.
Although 43 countries with combined populations of 2.8 billion people have now implemented best-practice policies, the other five billion plus people on the planet remain unprotected, the UN’s health agency said.
It said Egypt, Australia and South Korea are among countries that have not enacted such policies and have particularly high rates of heart disease from trans-fat.
The solidified oil that clogs up arteries around the heart is often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads like margarine.
“Transfat is a toxic chemical that kills, and should have no place in the food,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said amid the release of the annual progress report. “It’s time to get rid of it once and for all.”
He added the substance carries “huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems.”
Food producers use trans-fat because they have a longer shelf life and are cheaper than some alternatives.
Best practice on eliminating trans-fat means either a mandatory national limit of two grammes of industrially-produced trans-fat per 100 grammes of total fat in all foods; or a national ban on the production or use of partially-hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of trans-fat.
The WHO said that nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans-fat intake were not implementing best-practice policies.
They are Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea.
Francesco Branca, the WHO’s nutrition and food safety director, called on those countries to take “urgent action”.
Sixty nations now had trans-fat elimination policies, covering 3.4 billion people or 43 per cent of the world’s population. (Int’l News Desk)