By Abayomi Sarumi
It is socially acceptable for most Nigerians who make it into another year to set new standards, rules, conditions, and perhaps, way of life for themselves as they work to better themselves in the new year (dispensation). Though many get distracted duringachieving the set goals, I am a firm believer in appraisals,feedbacks, and review of processes over a particular period. It is important to tweak one’s approach to life from time to time. In the spirit of setting new goals, if you like, New Year resolutions, it is incumbent to include ‘adding your voice to the campaign to eliminate trans-fatty acids from Nigeria’s food supply.
Trans Fatty Acid otherwise referred to as TFAis regarded as the worst of all dietary fats for the health of man as it increases the dangers of heart diseases and other health problems.Trans fats are unsaturated fats produced from vegetable oils. They are commonly used in the preparation of margarine and commercially baked or fried foods. While Trans-Fat occurs in both natural and artificial forms, it is the industrially produced trans-fat that constitutes the biggest health issues as the TFAs in natural states like meat and milk are not injurious to the health.
Getting trans-fat out of Nigeria’s food supply is not only a health concern, but also a financial concern. In 2018, the World Health Organisation(WHO) designed and shared a pathway for the elimination of trans-fatty acids in the global food chain to help improve the health of the world citizens.
For Nigerians, getting the toxic substance out of their food supply is largely dependent on passing the TFA regulations. In 2020, before the pandemic swept everything else under the carpet, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) made public the draft of two regulations to help eliminate the burden of trans-fat consumption. Both regulations would give Nigerians an edge in their fight against trans-fatty acids as food producers would be compelled to keep the TFA content of their food to not more than 2g/100g as recommended by WHO.
Knowing that TFA is a major health concern as it is found in almost all the food sources young and old Nigerians now consume – from pastries to fried foods, from roadside ‘munchies’ to aisles of processed foods in the high-end super mart. It is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death of men and women globally. It also eats deep into the pocket of Nigerians as they pay exorbitantly for their favourite foods and still pay out-of-pocket for treating health complications.
Putting in place regulations is the first step to take in getting Nigerians out of the wood and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has done a great job by getting its board to approve the regulations. In line with the requirements of the law, they have also passed it on to the supervisory ministry, the Federal Ministry of Health.
In getting the approval across the line, citizens must now team up to engage the government through the Federal Ministry of Health. In teaming up, the people would take the task of teaching one another about the dangers of trans-fat consumption, best ways to eliminate it, and demand for the passage of the regulations and immediate gazette for immediate use.
Moving forward, Nigerians would also need to monitor the compliance of the food producers to these regulations, police the unregulated markets, and help the government to remember its duties to the people. This they can only do after the enactment of the mandatory regulations.
In a country where it seems like the voice of the people are not heard and take into consideration, it is easy for people to lose steam and believe that their support wouldn’t count. However, building and mobilizing a community of individuals and groups to amplify the need for the regulations, engage the government, and sensitise the rest of the population is critical.
To do this, the populace can pitch in with civil societies working on all fronts and build an even stronger front. The government tends to listen and act on the strong voice of the people, usually not without resistance, but from sustained pressure.
As the year begins, each Nigerian must now sit up and join the conversation to achieve a #TransfatFreeNigeria.
Abayomi Sarumi works with Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa