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Friday June 21, 2024

Youth-led initiative for iTFA regulations

By Our Correspondent
May 30, 2024
A representational image showing a burger, french fries and a milkshake at a restaurant. — Reuters/File
A representational image showing a burger, french fries and a milkshake at a restaurant. — Reuters/File

Islamabad:In a significant push towards the regulation of industrially produced trans-fats (iTFAs) in Pakistan, youth leaders under the Transform Pakistan campaign from various educational institutes have successfully arranged a series of back-to-back consultative roundtable discussions. These events have underscored the need for adopting best practice policies by setting no more than two percent limit of iTFA of the total fats in all foods. 

This campaign, spearheaded by Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA) with support from the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (MoNHSR&C), and the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), aims at advocating conflict of interest free iTFA regulations through such dialogues.

The youth-led initiatives, part of the broader Transform Pakistan campaign, have played a pivotal role in mobilizing support for regulatory measures. The roundtable discussions provided a platform for open dialogue and collaboration between multiple key stakeholders. The attendees of the events included high-level stakeholders from the Punjab Food Authority (PFA), Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR), and academia who shared insights into current regulatory frameworks and potential pathways for strengthening iTFA regulations.

One of the youth leaders, Bareera Munir from the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS), Lahore who led a round table discussion, ‘Regulating and eliminating trans-fatty acids from dietary sources in Pakistan’ highlighted the significance of these engagements, "The roundtable discussion at UVAS proved to be instrumental in engaging high-level stakeholders to support iTFA regulations. By bringing together diverse stakeholders, we are creating a unified front to tackle a severe public health issue."

Dr. Waqas Ahmed, Assistant Professor at UVAS and the university's focal person for youth engagement, expressed his admiration for the proactive involvement of the youth. He stated, “The fact that this dialogue is being led by youth leaders is highly encouraging, not just for the young participants but also for the coalition advocating for iTFA regulations.”

In continuation of this momentum, the second policy dialogue, ‘Limiting trans fats in food supply chain: Policy options’ emphasizing the urgency of iTFA regulations in the country, was organized at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad.

Munawar Hussain, Country Lead at GHAI, added, “Pakistan is battling with the rise in heart diseases, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs), a significant reason of which is the high intake of iTFA from our dietary sources. Government regulatory bodies must realise the urgency and set a mandatory limit of iTFAs to no more than 2 percent of the total fats in all foods.”

Dr. Qasim Raza, deputy director, Punjab Food Authority, addressed the attendees and pointed out, “We took several measures at Faisalabad to reduce consumption of iTFA from the dietary sources. However, a strict regulation with adequate penalties may help us to make the food safe and free from iTFA.”

Dr. Saba Amjad, chief executive officer of Heartfile, informed the audience about the results of a research carried out by Heartfile. “Research shows that one-third of the cooking oils claiming to be virtually Trans-fat Free (VTF) were found to have high levels of iTFA which indicates the necessity of iTFA regulations in the country.”

During his closing remarks, Prof. Dr. Imran Pasha, DG NIFSAT, stressed the urgency to regulate iTFAs commenting “As a pioneering department, the academia at NIFSAT will persist in efforts to achieve iTFA best practice policy and support the government.” “As the campaign moves forward, the success of these youth-led initiatives to engage key stakeholders demonstrates the power of collective action and the crucial role young people play in shaping a healthier future for Pakistan,” concluded Program Implementation Lead at PYCA.