The sanction came after right to information activist, KS Swami, enquired whether the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has prescribed any safe percentage of trans fats in ghee and edible oil.
It was reported that the FSSAI did not give an accurate response in this regard.
Swami then took his case to Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) of India, which in a decision last week said that the FSSAI was deliberately avoiding admission of no safety standard for trans fats.
“If the authority has taken no steps about specifying the safe level of trans fats percentages in ghee and edible oils they should at least admit this,” CIC Shailesh Gandhi said in his order.
Under the order, the food regulator has been asked to pay a compensation of Rs 2,000 rupees (roughly US$40), which is being widely regarded as a symbolic amount meant to embarrass the authority for trying to skirt the issue.
Authorities waking up to trans fats issue
The issue of trans fats has however got the attention of the national mainstream over the last two months.
In an attempt to combat the sharp rise in obesity-related ailments in India, the national government has said that it is planning to reduce trans fatty acid 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, a 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.
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.