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Govt should eliminate TFAs from Indian food by ’21, says Consumer VOICE
Wednesday, 23 October, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
The government should revisit its 2022 deadline to eliminate artery-clogging trans-fatty acids (TFAs) from Indian food, a major factor for spike in cardiovascular diseases, hypertension and type-II diabetes, and ensure that the objective is achieved a year earlier to drastically reduce the incidence of heart diseases among Indians. This was demanded by Consumer VOICE (Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education), a leading Delhi-based consumer body that works under the Jago Grahak Jago programme of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.  

In a memorandum to health and family welfare minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, it added that the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) should advance the 2022 deadline set for the elimination of TFAs, or trans-fats, from Indian food to 2021.

As per the draft notifications of the country’s apex food regulator, the limit of trans-fats in fats/oils will be not more than three per cent by weight on and from January 1, 2021 and not more than two per cent by weight on and from January 1, 2022.

Ashim Sanyal, chief operating officer, Consumer VOICE, said, “Trans-fats in Indian food are responsible for health risks like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type-II diabetes and obesity.”

“To safeguard health of consumers, trans-fats should be eliminated from Indian food as soon as possible. The momentum against trans-fats is gaining across the world. Therefore, we are demanding immediate notification by FSSAI to make Indian food free from trans-fatty acids by 2021,” he added.

Globally, trans-fat intake results in more than 5,00,000 deaths of people from cardiovascular disease every year. In India, more than 77,000 deaths annually are attributed to trans-fats consumption, which is the highest in the world.

TFAs can be found both naturally and artificially in foods. While natural trans-fats, present in very small amounts in certain animal products and whole milk, are not considered harmful, but industrially-produced artificial trans-fats, which are done through adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, lead to increase in bad cholesterol (LDL) and lowering of good cholesterol (HDL). These trans-fats are largely found in vanaspati oil, margarine, bakery shortenings, and in baked and fried foods.

Sanyal said Consumer VOICE had also submitted an eight-point charter of demands to Dr Vardhan to draw his attention to the issue and take a decision urgently. These include immediate notification of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product Standards and Additives) Regulations, 2011, with amendment made for trans-fats limits and oils and an earliest notification of the Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2019.

Further, the Food Safety and Standards (Food Product and standards and Additives) Regulations, 2011 should include a two per cent limit on trans-fats for fats, oils and all food products.

Also, the current regulation ofa fie per cent limit should be made measurable with regular surveillance tests while transparency should be ensured in the implementation process by making testing data (five, three and two per cent limit) at the national and state levels available in the public domain.

Another demand in the charter is about the introduction of a new logo for trans-fat-free (two per cent) products and restriction on misleading no trans-fats claim on packaged food products. There should also be strict monitoring of marketing methods and advertisements of packaged food items with all kinds of misleading claims.

Sanyal said there should be strict implementation at the state level, including setting up of the required infrastructure mechanism (labs and technicians), institutional mechanisms and mandatory assessment reports. In addition, efforts should be made for sensitisation and capacity building of state food commissioners and food safety officers (FSOs) on implementation of trans-fats regulations.
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