Trans-Fat: How lack of information is hindering data gathering

    Trans - fat foods

    By Aderonke Ogunleye-Bello

    Trans-fat a silent killer and major cause of cardiovascular illnesses in Nigeria. Illnesses associated with transfats are majorly acquired through foods that are consumed by people on daily basis. The higher the amount of trans-fatty food consumption, the higher the chances of coming down with cardiovascular illnesses.

    In Nigeria, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), a pan African organisation in collaboration with partners have been at the forefront of advocacy for healthy living and advocacy for the gazette of the Fats and Oils Regulations 2022. Theregulation will guarantee the safety of the kind of oils that are produced for the consumption of the Nigerian public.

    As part of the transfats campaign, the Trans-fat free Nigeria Coalition led by the Network for Health Equity & Development (NHED) recently put together a one-day supplementary information gathering workshop, a mapping exercise of Partially Hydrogenated Oils (PHO) in Nigeria. The engagement which began in late 2021 concluded that there is difficulty in getting Nigerians to give out information on trans-fats.

    Speaking at the workshop, Dr Jerome Mafeni, Technical Adviser for Trans-fat free Nigeria campaign at NHED, stated the reasons why local, regional and multinational players are not completely moved to non-PHO,

    “Big capital investments are needed to combine fractionation with interesterification. Requires the move from a liquid oil supply chain to an additional (semi-solid) palm oil-based supply chain. Knowledge to build and use factories may be lacking. Ability to use cheapest and local oils can give PHO a cost advantage. Local regulations do not yet make non-PHO compulsory.”

    He called on industry players to remove Trans-fat from indigenous foods, insisting that “there has been too much unnecessary loss of lives in Nigeria recently. We should not add to this list for something so readily preventable. The Big Companies have removed TFAs from their products. Now is the turn of the MSMEs,”
    Explaining the preliminary findings on PHO mapping in Nigeria, Coordinator of Research Matrix Limited, Benson Olubodun, highlighted some difficulties by industry players, “for the local manufacturing and production of PHO we identify six probable manufacturers, however, due to insufficient disclosure of information, the information gathered so far was incomplete/inconclusive to determine the exact number of local PHO manufacturers or producers.

    “For importers, we draw a list of importers of hydrogenated oil was sourced from NAFDAC, but the list did not make the distinction between partially or fully hydrogenated oils, however, inability to conduct interviews with importers or those knowledgeable on PHO importing prevents us from making any conclusive statement or acquire an accurate knowledge on the PHO market in Nigeria and how much imports contribute to the supply of PHO in Nigeria.”

    He concluded by advising on next steps and to take, “As gleaned from desk research, a report on the global PHO market by Persistence Market Research posits that Nigeria’s market for PHO is estimated to be the biggest in Africa, with an estimated market volume of 229,000MT in 2017 (roughly 8.5% of Africa’s total PHO market volume). The estimated market volume does not include company specific production volume presumed by the industry experts since this information could not be independently/objectively confirmed.”

    “More recent data could not be obtained and the dearth of information from the industry leads to an inconclusive assessment of the current PHO market size and its growth trends,” he concluded.
    The workshop was attended by industry players and members of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

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