Global elimination of trans fat: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has announced that all edible refined oils, vanaspati and mixed fat spreads may only contain 3 percent or less trans fats by January 2021 while 2 percent or less trans fats by January 2022.
It may be recalled that the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the global elimination of trans fat by 2023.
Industrially produced trans fats are created artificially during the hydrogenation processes of vegetable oils, and resulting in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs). PHVOs are the major source of trans fats in India and are found in vanaspati, margarines, and shortenings. Vanaspati is used in the preparation of Indian traditional sweets (mithais)such as ladoo, imarti, jalebi, and deep-fried foods such as aloo Tikki and bhatura.
Margarine and bakery shortenings are the most common fats used in baked goods such as cakes, pastries, and puffs. Some of them are also formed during the manufacturing process when a high-temperature refinement process is used to create vegetable oils. Experts in the edible oil industry say that technologies are available to make trans fats-free products for baking and frying.
Consumption of trans fats is associated with an increased risk of heart diseases.“It is estimated that the 2017 global market volume of partially hydrogenated oils – the main source of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids in food – was approximately 13.6 million tonnes,” said Dr. Sonu Goel, Professor, Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh.
According to 2017 estimates, India has 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 each year due to coronary heart disease, and nearly 5% of these deaths each year (71,000) can be attributed to its intake.
According to WHO’s REPLACE second annual report released in September 2020, around 40 countries have already enacted the best practice policies to eliminate such 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 it in all fats and oils down to the level recommended by the WHO. In addition, in 2019, FSSAI drafted another regulation that limited 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 its policies in place, according to WHO standards.
“We commend FSSAI for enacting this regulation and setting an example for the South Asian region. It is important now that FSSAI enacts the same regulation in foods and focus on the enforcement in edible oil and food industries to reach the goal of trans fats-free India by 2022,” said Dr. Jagmeet Madan National President Indian Dietetic Association.
Consumer organizations leaders have also welcomed the new regulations passed by FSSAI. “Trans fats are artificially created toxins. This regulation is crucial to eliminating TFAs at source and will contribute to improving the heart health of citizens”, says Dr. Poonam Khanna, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Department of Community Medicine & School of Public Health, PGIMER, Chandigarh.
“To make sure health benefits are as great as possible, FSSAI needs to develop a strong enforcement plan including surveillance of oils and fats for trans fats, enhancing the capacity of food safety officers and improving lab capacities for testing trans fats,” added Dr. Khanna.