May 6, 2021 – The Department of Health (DOH) leads government efforts on trans fat elimination in the Philippines by developing the National Policy on the Elimination of Industrially-Produced Trans Fatty Acids in Prepackaged and Processed Food.
The DOH has been at the frontline of the movement against trans fat since 2018, when it began developing the draft policy that will provide a framework on the elimination of trans fat from the country’s food supply. Dubbed as the “tobacco of nutrition,” industrially produced TFA is a toxic fat usually found in fried, pre-baked, and processed food that increases the risk of developing non- communicable diseases (NCDs). Trans fat is known to cause coronary heart disease (CHD), the leading cause of death of Filipinos and a common comorbidity of people who died from Covid-19.
Under the proposed policy, the DOH, National Nutrition Council (NNC), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are mandated to implement programs designed to eliminate iTFA from the food supply within two years from its issuance. The policy will prohibit the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs), the main source of iTFA. The AO will also direct food manufacturers to replace PHOs with healthy alternative oils, fats, and oilseeds.
The DOH held a virtual public consultation on the proposed national policy on May 4, 2021, to gain insight into stakeholders’ positions on the proposed administrative order. Dr. Beverly Ho, Director IV of the DOH Health Promotion Bureau (DOH-HPB), opened the event by highlighting the importance of the policy as part of the health sector’s expanded efforts to promote prevention and control of NCDs. Dir. Ho noted that “In the Philippines, we know that the NCDs remain to be the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Through this administrative order, we take a step forward in fostering a healthy food environment for all Filipinos. Improving healthy food and healthy diet, we know, is a step towards fostering a Healthy Pilipinas.”
The Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers, Inc. (PCFMI) conveyed their support for the DOH in issuing and implementing this policy. The World Health Organization (WHO), civil society organizations such as the Philippine Association of Nutrition (PAN) and ImagineLaw, a public interest law organization, also affirmed their strong support for the measure highlighting the advantages of implementing the policy as a public health intervention that reduces both health risks and economic burden caused by premature deaths from NCDs.
The AO will set the policy direction to eliminate iTFA from the food supply and will direct the FDA to issue technical regulations to guide manufacturers in removing PHOs in food products. The health measure is expected to yield better health outcomes for Filipinos, as seen in other countries that have witnessed a significant decline of NCDs after the implementation of iTFA regulations.
Following the consultation, the DOH will assess recommendations from stakeholders and finalize the administrative order. The DOH encourages the public to send additional feedback through its e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org by May 7.