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India to reduce trans fats in vanaspati oils

By Ankush Chibber , 19-Jan-2012
Last updated the 19-Jan-2012 at 18:29 GMT

In an attempt to combat the sharp rise in obesity-related ailments in India, the national government is planning to reduce trans fatty acid (TFA) content in vanaspati oil over the next couple of years.

Vanaspati is a fully or partially hydrogenated vegetable cooking oil often used as a cheaper substitute for ghee. Usually made from palm oil, vanaspati ghee can contain as much as 50% trans fats.

The government is set to issue rules that would limit TFA content in vanaspati to 10% by the end of the year, and 5% by the end of 2013, Ministry of Health (MoH) source told FoodNavigator-Asia.

The proposed norms come not long after a report from the Centre for Science and Environment, which stated that seven branded edible oils sold in the country had TFA content up to 12 times the 2% benchmark used by Denmark.

According to the MoH source, the move has been prompted by recommendations from the scientific committee of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), and an official notification would be issued soon, with obesity and related ailments concerns emphasised.

Ramping up the attack, “the government also plans to introduce mandatory labelling for information on TFA and saturated fat content on packs of vanaspati oil, edible oil and other oil products,” the source said.

Previous regulations

Under the previously applicable Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, which was replaced by the Food Safety and Standards Act in August last year, there were no limits on TFA content in vanaspati oil.

India did however enforce mandatory labelling requirements for packaged food products back in 2009, but these requirements only made it compulsory for food manufacturers to state nutritional information per serving on the packs.

The committee came down hard on oil manufacturers' preference for addition of hydrogen atoms to oils, which ensures a longer shelf life but also results in the formation of TFA.

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