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Trans Fat Consumption in Pakistan Require Attention for Policy Maker

Fats and oils are an essential component of our healthy and balanced diet that gives us energy, helps us to absorb vitamins and contributes to many essential body functions. However, Trans fat that can be industrially produced through partially hydrogenated oils or by processing methods are considered unhealthy fats.

Conclusively, they increase the level of bad cholesterol in the blood, ultimately increases the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and certain other non-communicable diseases.

As per statement by Parliamentary Secretary (The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination) on 11th November 2020, Pakistan trans-fat intake is estimated to be the 2nd highest in the WHO-EMRO region at nearly 6% of daily energy intake whereas the WHO recommends limiting TFA intake to less than 1% of energy per day”.

It is estimated that with every 2% increase in energy intake from trans-fats, it is associated with a 23% increase in the incidence of coronary heart disease.

From the facts we can make an estimation that with 6% caloric intake consumers are having more than 60% vulnerability of cardiovascular diseases than rest of the world.

As per WHO estimates, this type of fat intake leads to more than 540,000 deaths of people each year globally.

Trans fat intake in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region

Find below Trans fat intake in countries of the Eastern Mediterranean region, where Pakistan is at 2nd in ranking

The major reason of Pakistan to be at the 2nd place in term of Trans fat consumption is the availability and affordability of a cheaper option of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil product “Vanaspati” over the last many years.

The second reason of higher intake is food consumption pattern in Pakistan including indigenous fried products (Poori, Paratha, French Fries, Pakorra, Samosa etc).

Third and the biggest reason is no focus on consumer awareness, decentralized regulatory limits for trans fats followed by weak enforcement.

Regulatory body and their requirements

Punjab Food Authority

  • The ban on Vanaspati come in to effect from July, 2020.
  • TFA limit of 0.5% for Vanaspati (before ban), shortening, margarine & spreads then 3% for infant formulas.
  • Labelling requirements for TFA %age for cream analogues, margarine, infant formula and desserts

KPK Food Authority

  • TFA limits of 10% for Vanaspati (2018) and 5% after 3 years
  • TFA limit of 5% for shortening, margarine & spreads and 3% for infant formulas
  • Labelling requirements for TFA %age for cream analogues, margarine, infant formula and desserts
  • TFA limit of 5% for Vanaspati

Sindh Food Authority

  • TFA limit of 5% for Vanaspati

Baluchistan Food Authority

  • No TFA limits

Federal Authority (PSQCA)

  • TFA limit of 5% for Vanaspati

Major sources of Trans Fat include Vanaspati (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil), Margarine, industrial shortening, indigenous foods, baked and fried products.

Major Sources of Trans FatTFA content (% of product)
Vanaspati (Vegetable Ghee)5% to 34%
Margarines12% to 35%
Industrial Shortening8% to 32%
Biscuits, Chocolate and Pastry9% and 35%
Traditional products (Poori, paratha, French Fries, Cake, Pakorra, Samosa)11% to 39%
Major Sources of Trans Fat

Considering the facts of high consumption of trans fat in Pakistani food supply chain, some strategic actions need to be taken for the elimination of this type of fat and to fight against high rate of cardiovascular disease.

By implementation of WHO guidelines, following 6 strategic actions above goals could sustainably achieved within a period of 3 – 5 years.

  1. Reviewing of industrially produced trans fats dietary sources and setting the policies
  2. Promoting healthier fats and oils options as replacement of trans fats
  3. Harmonizing regulatory product and labeling requirements for trans fats
  4. Regular assessment and monitoring of trans fat consumption in the food chain
  5. Awareness and communication on health impacts of trans fat at all levels from policy making, processors, retailers and the consumers.
  6. Enforcing set policies and regulatory requirements with risk based defined intervals

As per WHO report on Global Trans Fat elimination 2020, below is the tans fats policy situation in the Eastern Mediterranean Region where Pakistan also categorized.

From the policy setting to implementation Pakistan can follow Saudi Arabia as best practice country.

Elimination of industrially produced trans fat from food chain is feasible, cost-effective and life-saving hence need a strong commitment from policy making to consumer food choices.

Policy Making for Trans Fat


Higher consumption of Trans Fat (>1% of total energy intake) is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Pakistan’s trans-fat intake is estimated to be the 2nd highest in the WHO-EMRO region at nearly 6% of daily energy intake leading to higher vulnerability risk of coronary heart disease.

Globally every year such this type of fat intake is responsible for approximately 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease. Urgent priority should be to follow WHO’s best practices for Trans Fat elimination from the food chain by putting ban on the production, sale and use of partially hydrogenated oils (Vanaspati) along with clearly defining restriction limits for industrially produced trans fat maximum of 2% of total fat in all food products containing fat and oil as component.

Written By Sagar Mahmood Khan (Head of QA Compliance Center MCC Global Quality Assurance Management, METRO AG, Germany)



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