FSSAI to limit trans fats in edible vegetable oils and fats to 2% by weight in a phased manner

New Delhi, 19 August 2018: In a much-welcome move, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oil and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022. 

Heart Care Foundation of India had written to the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and Hon’ble Minister of Ministry of Law and Justice on 21st June 2018 t ban trans fats in commercial restaurants.

As part of the letter, HCFI had appealed for immediate steps and necessary directions for banning the use of trans fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, and grocery items in India. Recently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned artificial trans fats from American restaurants and grocery store food items. The latter gave time till 18th June 2018 to all companies in the USA for eliminating trans fats.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Trans fats have been a staple in the tastiest junk foods for more than 100 years. They are chemically made by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil (partially hydrogenated oil is also trans-fat). Trans fats increases the shelf life of packaged foods, and restaurants like to use it as oil for deep frying because it doesn’t need to be changed as often as other oils. The FDA’s move should be replicated in India as well. The health effects of trans fats are not unknown but consumption continues. Trans fats boost LDL as much as saturated fats and also lower protective HDL. Apart from this, they rev up inflammation and increase the tendency for blood clots to form inside blood vessels.”

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen molecules into vegetable oils. This changes the chemical structure of the oil, turning it from a liquid into a solid. The process involves high pressure, hydrogen gas, and a metal catalyst – and the end-product is highly unsuitable for human consumption.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Vice President of CMAAO, said, “Foods rich in trans fats tend to be high in added sugar and calories. Over time, these can pave way for weight gain and even Type 2 diabetes, not to mention heart problems. It is time to take a strong stand against their use in eateries outside because many people eat in restaurants regularly in today’s day and age.”

In a response FASSI said dated 1 August 2018: “Please refer to grievance dated 26.06.2018 with registration no. PMOPG/D/2018/0229751 regarding banning use of trans-fat in all restaurants, cafes, hotels, grocery items in India. In this regard, it is informed that the Food Safety and Standards (Food products Standard and Product Additives) Regulations, 2011, prescribe that the trans-fat shall not be more than 5% by weight in some types of vegetable fats. Further, the FSSAI is in the process of notifying the limits of trans-fat in all edible vegetable oils and fats to be not more than 2% by weight in a phased manner by 2022. The other concerns regarding creating awareness among the public have been noted.”

Some tips from HCFI

Choose foods lower in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.

Replace saturated and trans fats in their diet with mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Some sources of monounsaturated fats include olive and canola oils. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include soybean, corn, sunflower oils, and foods like nuts.

Choose vegetable oils (except coconut and palm kernel oils) and soft margarines (liquid, tub, or spray) more often because the combined amount of saturated and trans fats is lower than the amount in solid shortenings, hard margarines, and animal fats, including butter.

Most fish are lower in saturated fat than meat. Some fish, such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, contain omega–3 fatty acids that are being studied to determine if they offer protection against heart disease.

Limit foods high in cholesterol such as liver and other organ meats, egg yolks and full–fat dairy products, like whole milk.

Choose foods low in saturated fat such as fat free or 1% dairy products, lean meats, fish, skinless poultry, whole grain foods and fruit and vegetables.