ISLAMABAD: Health experts urged the government to introduce front-of-pack nutrition labels and warnings on ultra-processed foods. These products, which are often loaded with sugar, salt, saturated fats, transfats, and additives, have been scientifically linked to a heightened risk of obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
The surge in the consumption of these unhealthy foods poses a grave threat to public health and the overall well-being of the nation. Dr. Shakeel Mirza, speaking at an event organized by the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH), highlighted the alarming increase in non-communicable diseases in Pakistan. He noted that Pakistan now holds the dubious distinction of having the fastest-growing rate of diabetes worldwide.
Pakistan is among the countries where the consumption of sugar, salt, transfats, and saturated fats far exceeds the limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO). These unhealthy dietary choices contribute significantly to the prevalence of non-communicable diseases, including heart diseases, diabetes, kidney issues, and various types of cancers.
To combat this growing health crisis, experts like Mr. Munawar Hussain are advocating for the implementation of front-of-pack nutrition labels on ultra-processed foods. Many countries around the world have already adopted such labels, and the evidence shows that they encourage consumers to make healthier choices. Hussain stressed the urgency of implementing similar measures in Pakistan and called on the media to play a pivotal role in mobilizing policy support for these regulations.
Dr. Khawaja Masood Ahmed, the National Coordinator of Nutrition at the Ministry of Health, acknowledged the significance of front-of-pack nutrition labels in reducing the disease burden in the country. He highlighted that the current regulatory pathway is complex, but efforts are underway to streamline the process through a single regulation. The Ministry of Health (MoH) is committed to supporting such regulations, including those related to trans fats (iTFA) limits.
Sanaullah Ghumman, Secretary General of PANAH, emphasized the influential role of the media in shaping public opinion and influencing policy decisions. He praised the media’s support in previous campaigns, such as increasing taxes on sugary drinks to reduce the disease burden, and now seeks their support for the life-saving policy change of implementing front-of-pack nutrition labels and warning signs on all ultra-processed foods.
Abdul Hafeez, on behalf of PANAH, expressed gratitude to all participants, including civil society and the media, for their involvement in the event. The call to action remains clear: the implementation of front-of-pack nutrition labels and warnings on unhealthy foods is vital for safeguarding the health of the nation.