The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has reduced the permitted level of trans-fat content in edible fats and oils from 10 to 5 per cent across the country. The new standards will come into force by August 2016.
This regulation will be applicable to hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine and fat spreads and interesterified vegetable fat. An environment advocacy group today termed this move as an important milestone in controlling non-communicable diseases in India and urged to bring it to “near-zero levels“.
The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in its 2009 study on 30 brands of cooking oils, found trans-fats in all Vanaspati (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) brands to be 5-12 times higher than the standard of Denmark—two per cent of the total fat content. The study intensified the debate on need for trans-fat standards. After having proposed a draft in 2010, the authority came up with a relaxed limit of 10 percent in 2013. Since then CSE had been advocating for at least a 5 per cent limit on it.
Trans-fats are formed on hydrogenation of vegetable oils while making them Vansapati. Although trans-fats are edible, consumption of trans-fats has shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease. India has a huge and growing number of people suffering from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
Globally, consumption of trans-fats through cooking medium or ultra-processed junk foods is strongly linked with non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been advising countries to limit its consumption. In a similar attempt, the US in June 2015 recognised the use of partially hydrogenated oils as unsafe and planed banning of its use by food product manufacturers within three years.
Key Points to Remember:
- Chairman of FSSAI – Ashish Bahuguna
- Director General of CSE – Sunita Narain
- Director General of WHO – Margaret Chan
- Chairperson of FSSAI – Bhanu Pratap Sharma