Diet related risk factors are major killers of Pakistanis.

Muhammad Daniyal Special Correspondent Daily Relation Times   Murree. High intake of ultra-processed foods are among the top contributors to obesity, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and other non-communicable diseases. Diet related risk factors are the major killers of Pakistanis. Government should take immediate policy measures and impose excise duty on ultra-processed foods to reduce their consumption. The revenue collected through these taxes should be partially are fully earmarked to promote public health and subsidize fruits, vegetables and lentils. In response to the escalating health concern, health experts and civil society representatives said this during a media workshop organized by the Pakistan National Heart Association (PANAH) at a local hotel in Murree.
“Heart diseases, stroke and diabetes are among the major killers of Pakistanis and recently there is a sharp surge of these diseases in the country. High consumption of sugar, sodium, saturated fats and trans-fats are among the major diet related risk factor of these diseases” said by Munawar Hussain, Country Coordinator at Global Health Advocacy Incubator. “It is governments obligation to enact mandatory policies which save lives. Imposing federal excise duty on ultra-processed foods especially the sweet drinks is an evidence based policy to cut down the chronic diseases” he added.
Ultra-processed foods are the category of food products that undergo multiple stages of processing, often involving the use of industrial methods and the addition of various ingredients to enhance taste such as sugar, salt, fats, preservatives, sweeteners, colorings, emulsifiers, and flavorings. The examples include sugary drinks including those with non-sugar sweeteners, dairy desserts, biscuits, chocolates, sweet and salty snacks, potato chips, candies, pastas, noodles, and baked foods etc.
Ms. Afshan Tehseen Bajwa the former Chairperson of Nation Commission on the Rights of Child, and Vice President PANAH said “unfortunately the Ultra-processed Foods are cheap, and healthy diet like fruits and vegetables are costly, which have shifted the consumption trends in the favor of Ultra-processed Foods. Taxing ultra-processed foods will increase their price, reduce its consumption and ultimately the chronic disease. Further, earmarking the collected revenue to subsidize fruits, vegetable and lentils will make them affordable to increase its consumption by low income groups”. she added “this would be a smart policy by Government which may give several benefits without having any cost”.
“Ministry of Health is in full support of taking all policy measures to reduce consumption of Ultra-processed foods” said by Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator Nutrition and NFA at Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination. “taxes on sugary drinks are inadequate and need to be increased through an immediate window to change the policy. In addition, the ultra-processed products high in sugar, salt and fats needs to be taxed” he added.
Sanaullah Ghumman said that since decades, PANAH is giving awareness to its countrymen to consume healthy foods for public health. Along with awareness raising, PANAH is working for advocating policies to reduce the consumption of unhealthy food items that cause heart diseases, diabetes and many other fatal diseases. Media is our strong support that help convey our messages to policy makers and decision makers. He urged media to help in passing the evidence based policies which are in the best interest of public. He urged government to increase excise tax on sugary drinks and include ultra-processed foods in the excise duty list through Finance Bill 2024-25 or early, if possible.

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