Experts have called for control of trans fats in food by bringing it under a legal framework and warned that, otherwise, its effects will become a pandemic.
They also stressed raising awareness among industries and consumers about the dangers of trans fat and said the government has to take an initiative on this.
The experts came up with the remarks at a workshop for journalists at the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA) Bhaban in the capital on Saturday.
With support from Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), research and advocacy organisation Progga organised the event to highlight the progress of the draft policy on trans-fat control and the role of the media.
About five lakh people worldwide die of heart disease every year due to high levels of industrial trans fats in the diet.
According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, Bangladesh is among the 15 countries with the highest risk of death due to trans-fat-related heart ailments, but the government is yet to finalise a draft policy on trans-fat control, the experts said.
Abu Ahmed Shamim, an associate scientist at the James P Grant School of Public Health at Brac University, said, "Industrially produced trans fat is a toxic ingredient in foods that increase the risk of premature deaths from heart disease. Dalda or vegetable ghee used, in various foods, fast food, and bakery products, for cooking adds trans fat."
Professor Dr Sohail Reza Chowdhury of the epidemiology and research department at the National Heart Foundation Hospital and Research Institute said, "Our research team found more than 2% of trans fat (trans fatty acids) recommended by the WHO in 92% of the Dalda samples in Dhaka, which is very alarming."
According to Progga at the workshop, the WHO has set a target of eliminating trans fats from the world's food supply chain by 2023 and the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) is working on "Trans Fatty Acid Control Regulations in Food, 2021".
Manzur Morshed, a member of the BFSA, said, "The food ministry has already sent the draft regulations to the law ministry for vetting. We hope it will be finalised as soon as possible. "
"The economic importance of trans fat elimination is also great. The export market of our processed food products is growing day by day," said GHAI's Bangladesh Country Lead Muhammad Ruhul Quddus.
"If we do not produce trans-fat-free products, we will lose the international market, and the country will suffer economically. It will also increase the risk of trans-fat-related heart disease in the country, and the cost in the medical sector will also go up."
Progga Executive Director ABM Jubayer was also present at the programme.