The Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) has prepared a draft regulation to reduce the amount of trans fat in foods and food products to 2% per 100 grams.
At present, in every 100 grams of oil, fat and food, the use of trans fat is 8-9 grams, which is excessive and deadly to health.
The draft regulations for "Limiting Trans Fatty Acids in Food Products Regulations, 2021" are available on the BFSA website for comments. The organisation held a view-exchange meeting on the occasion on Monday.
BFSA officials said the main source of trans fat in the diet is partially hydrogenated oil (PHO), also known as Dalda or Banaspati ghee in Bangladesh. Excess trans fat is being used to make all kinds of bakery products, including cakes, biscuits, processed foods such as fried baked goods, snacks and meals in hotels and restaurants.
As a result of excessive intake of trans fat, the rate of heart disease and death due to it is increasing in Bangladesh.
The BFSA has tested a variety of foods, including Dalda, more than once before making a solution, and found evidence of high levels of trans fats in 96% of cases. At the same time, the World Health Organisation has instructed its member countries to reduce the level of trans fat to 2% by 2023.
According to the Bangladesh NCD (Non-communicable disease) Country Profile 2018, every year, the deaths from NCD, such as heart problems, cancer, stroke and respiratory diseases, is 67% of the total deaths. About 30% of them die of cardiovascular diseases and trans fat is one of the main reasons.
BFSA Chairman Abdul Qayyum Sarkar said, "Heart hospitals in Singapore are run by patients from Bangladesh because the number of heart attacks in the country is constantly increasing. We need to control it."
"Therefore, we are making provision in the regulations to reduce the maximum level of trans fat in oils, fats and foods below 2% for health protection," he added.
Manzoor Morshed Ahmed, head of the technical committee on trans fat, said, "This will bring about a technical change in food processing companies because reducing the use of trans fats requires a change during food processing stages.
Masood Alam, Food and Agriculture Organisation's national food safety consultant, told The Business Standard, "Food manufacturing companies need to make technological changes. We have to talk to the companies for implementation."
According to the draft regulation, the sale, distribution, storage, production, processing and importation of any product having more than 2% trans fat is strictly prohibited. Provision has been made to punish the person or organisation for violating the law with a fine of Tk3-6 lakh or imprisonment for 1-3 years or both.
The amount of trans fatty acid used in food products should be stated on each packet.