GENEVA — The World Health Organization (WHO) has honored the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) for obtaining a certificate of recognition that food products in the Kingdom are free from industrially produced trans-fatty acids (ITFA) or artificial trans fats.

Saudi Arabia found a place among the first five countries in the world in this respect and these countries also include Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, and Thailand. WHO hailed these countries for implementing exemplary policies to eliminate ITFA.

During the honoring ceremony held in Geneva on Monday, Dr. Hisham Aljadhey, CEO of SFDA, appreciated the WHO’s efforts in promoting public health and launching targets that contribute to reducing the incidents of chronic diseases. This was achieved by Saudi Arabia in line with the its Vision 2030 and the Health Sector Transformation Program that aimed to develop a healthy food and nutrition strategy. In 2017, the SFDA developed a comprehensive strategy for healthy food and nutrition, focusing on improving the nutritional patterns of society and enhancing the nutritional value of food products, Aljadhey said while noting that the strategy included the implementation of policies to reduce salt, sugar and fat content in food products. Additionally, food establishments were required to disclose calorie information to consumers.

Since January 2020, the SFDA has successfully banned partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of trans fats, from the country’s food supply. The SFDA chief emphasized that Saudi Arabia was keen on developing and implementing an integrated system of policies and initiatives with the aim of improving the nutritional pattern and encouraging the consumer to choose healthier food products by involving stakeholders from the public and private sectors. “Deaths resulting from the consumption of artificial trans fats around the world are estimated at about 500,000 annually, and it is one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases,” he pointed out.

Aljadhey stated that SFDA has taken mandatory and guiding steps to limit the consumption of trans-fatty acids since 2015, as it set an upper limit for them in oil and ghee products not to exceed two percent, and five percent in other food products, leading to preventing the use of partially hydrogenated oils, the main source of these fats in 2020.

He noted that this contributed to enhancing individual health, reducing the economic burden resulting from diseases caused by these fats, and marketing Saudi products internationally. On the scientific side, the SFDA chief noted that the authority’s laboratories have been developed to verify that food products are free from artificial trans fats.

Out of the excellent performance by Saudi Arabia in implementing the procedures and regulations to eliminate artificial trans fats, it has been appointed as president of the International Advisory Team for the Elimination of Artificial Trans Fats. Faisal bin Sunaid, director of the Healthy Food Department at SFDA, was named as head of the team, which works to evaluate member states’ requests to obtain a certificate of recognition from the organization.

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