First in line is trans fatty acid (TFA) content in vanaspati oil, where new standards are due by the end of May, a spokesperson for Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) told FoodNavigator-Asia.
"We are going to notify rules that would limit TFA content in vanaspati to 10% by the end of May,” the FSSAI spokesperson said of a deadline moved forward several months.
The ministry said TFA content in vanaspati oil would eventually be reduced to 5% by the end of 2013.
The proposed standards were first issued after a report from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which stated that seven branded edible oils in India had TFA content up to 12 times the 2% benchmark used in Denmark.
Regulatory change is being prompted by labelling issues which were highlighted in another recent report by the CSE. That suggested Indian food brands are resorting to misbranding and misinformation to hide the real quantity of salt, sugar, and fat in their foods.
The report, which got widespread local media coverage, saw the CSE testing 16 major brands of popular food products, including Nestlé’s Maggi Noodles and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia.
In the report, CSE said that trans fats were worse than salt, and were central to rising obesity rates in India.“Tests show that many junk foods claim they have zero trans fats. Some don’t even bother to mention how much trans fats they have.”
CSE found many labelling breaches. Top Ramen Super Noodles (Masala) claims zero trans fats in every 100g – but tests found 0.7g per 100g. Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia claims no trans fats, but 2.5g per 100g turn up under analysis.
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.