DOH PROMOTES FILIPINOS’ HEART HEALTH AMIDST PANDEMIC, PROHIBITS TRANS FAT IN PRE-PACKAGED AND PROCESSED FOOD

Press Release | 25 July 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines today lauded the Department of Health’s policy to promote prevention and control non-communicable diseases by reducing industrially-produced trans fatty acids (iTFA) in pre-packaged and processed food, and increasing public awareness on the negative impacts of TFA.

According to the 2017 WHO Non-Communicable Disease Report, about 3,000 Filipinos suffer from premature mortality due to high consumption of TFAs. Studies have shown that high intake or consumption of TFA increases bad cholesterol, decreases good cholesterol and increases blood sugar, therefore contributing to the risk of developing cardiovascular and other non-communicable diseases.

Industrially produced TFA is commonly used as an ingredient in prepackaged and processed food to increase shelf life. With alternative fats and oils available, removing iTFA in prepackaged and processed food protects consumers from the risk of serious illness and premature deaths linked to high TFA consumption. 

The WHO commends the approval of DOH AO No. 2021-0039 as a lifesaving public health intervention. The elimination of iTFA from the food supply is one of the priority targets identified in the draft 13th General Programme of Work of the WHO in 2019-2023.

“The Philippines is rising to the challenge of promoting cardiovascular health amidst this global pandemic through the issuance of this national policy and joining many other countries that have banned the use of iTFA in prepackaged and processed foods. The WHO is committed to assist the DOH in implementing this very significant policy that will save many Filipino lives and contribute to the improvement of quality of life for others.” WHO Representative to the Philippines Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said.

“The elimination of iTFA in our food system is vital in promoting health and boosting immunity to fight COVID-19 as well as prevent non-communicable diseases that kill about 70% of Filipinos every year,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III on the occasion of the signing of the DOH AO.

ImagineLaw, a law group that advocates for public health policies, welcomed the AO's issuance. Atty. Sophia San Luis, ImagineLaw's Executive Director, congratulated the DOH for remaining focused on equally important public health issues, amid the pandemic. "This policy will save lives and will make Filipinos more resilient to infectious diseases like COVID-19. With this policy, the DOH is taking steps to create a Healthy Pilipinas that is free from trans fat."

The AO prohibits the production, importation, distribution, and sale of products with iTFA. The DOH will ensure its proper implementation by promoting active coordination across all sectors. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shall also issue technical regulations to guide the food industry’s compliance with the policy.

The DOH also supports efforts to advocate for the passage of the Trans Fat Free Philippines Bills, which seek to stipulate the multisectoral efforts needed in order to gradually eliminate TFA from the country’s food supply. The bill will also reinforce the initiative to strengthen preventive healthcare through nutrition promotion.

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