Last Updated on January 7, 2021 by The Health Master
India has unveiled regulations to limit trans fat in oils and fats, an important step for public health that will prevent thousands of deaths every year.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has announced that all edible refined oils, vanaspati, bakery shortening, margarines, vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads may only contain up to 3% trans fats by January 2021 and 2% or less trans fats by January 2022.
The move is the first step by FSSAI towards fulfilling its commitments made in 2018 to reduce trans-fats in both edible oils and in all foods.
Consumption of trans fats is associated with increased risk of heart diseases. According to 2017 estimates, India has one of the highest burden of heart disease deaths due to high trans-fat intake out of all countries in the world. More than 1.5 million deaths take place each year due to coronary heart disease, and nearly 5% of these deaths each year (71,000) can be attributed to trans fats intake.
Dr Naresh Trehan, India’s foremost cardiologist and Chairman, Medanta Hospital, Gurgaon, said, “Industrially produced trans fatty acid is a toxic chemical that clogs our arteries and is a risk factor for heart attack and other diseases. Eliminating this harmful chemical from our food system can save many lives. I commend FSSAI for enacting this important regulation and setting an example for the South Asian region.”
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Further explaining how TFA damages the heart, he said, “Intake of TFA not only has no health benefits, it increases bad cholesterol or LDL while decreasing good cholesterol or HDL in the body. LDL or low density cholesterol is dangerous because it can penetrate through the protective layer of arteries and start building up plaque on the arterial walls. Plainly put, high consumption of TFA rich food raises your risk for cardiovascular diseases and death.”
The notification of this regulation is a critical step since the World Health Organization (WHO) had called for global elimination of trans fat by 2023. According to WHO’s REPLACE second annual report released in September 2020, around 40 countries have already enacted the best practice policies to eliminate trans fats.
These best practice policies limit industrially produced levels of trans fats to 2% or less of total fats in all foods. The new regulations announced by FSSAI will bring levels of trans fats in all fats and oils down to the level recommended by the WHO.
Applauding this important regulatory step, Ms Vandana Shah, Regional Director South Asia Programs at Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and Global Health Advocacy Incubator, said, “India joins the growing number of countries, including Brazil and Turkey, who are taking steps to follow the WHO’s call to eliminate industrially produced trans fat from their food supply by 2023.
FSSAI’s leadership and initiative to make India TFA Free could become a model for other countries in the region to better protect their citizens from this toxic ingredient.”
Consumer organizations leaders have also welcomed this new regulation. Ashim Sanyal, COO of Consumer VOICE, said, “India has achieved a lifesaving milestone with FSSAI regulating trans fats to 3% now and 2% by 2022 in oils and fats.
This comes at the time of a pandemic where the NCD burden has risen. Cardiovascular diseases along with diabetes are proving fatal for C-19corona patients. The missing element of trans fats in all foods is a pain point and hopefully FSSAI will address this as well before January 2022 to eliminate chemical trans fatty acids from the Indian platter.”
Besides committing to limiting the amount of trans-fats in edible oils and fats, the FSSAI had also released a draft notification in 2019 seeking to reducing the levels of trans-fats in all foods, which is still to be enacted. Once adopted, this additional regulation, will place India in the ranks of countries with best practice trans-fat policies in place, according to WHO standards.
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