Science & Tech

FSSAI plans to cut trans-fat in food to 2%

Why to Read ?

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is set to come out with a regulation to reduce trans-fat content in food products having fats or oils to 2% by 2022
  • This provides us the context to the understand trans-fats and the concerns regarding it.

In Focus: Fats

Saturated fats:

  • Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat.
  • Most animal fats are saturated and are solid at room temperature. Example: butter, fat in meat, eggs etc.
  • The more the fat is saturated the more it is solid in nature.
  • Saturated fats are not essential to our body. They accumulate in the bloodstream and can narrow the vessel walls causing heart disease and strokes.
  • Technical:
    • If each carbon atom in the hydrocarbon chain of a fatty acid is bonded to two hydrogen atoms, there is no more space for hydrogen atoms to bond, i.e. the molecule is “saturated”.
    • Hence, it is referred to as saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats:

  • Saturated fat is a type of dietary fat.
  • Most plant fats are unsaturated and liquid in nature.
  • Though high in calories, they have lower cholesterol.
  • Since they are easily broken down by the body, they are better than saturated fats.
  • Source of unsaturated fats include avocados, peanuts, olive oil etc.
  • Technical:
    • In these fats, some of the carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon chain of a fatty acid are bound to only a single hydrogen.
    • Thus, there is space for hydrogen atoms to bond i.e the molecule is “unsaturated”. Hence, it is referred to as unsaturated fat.
    • Carbon atoms with single hydrogen are bound to other carbon atoms by “double bonds”. One of the features of double bonds is that they are easier to break.

Transfat:

  • Partially hydrogenated fat is called transfat. They are a form of unsaturated fat.
  • There are two main sources for trans fats.
    • Industrially-produced sources (partially hydrogenated oils); most trans fat is formed through an industrial process.
    • Natural sources – some meat and dairy products (of ruminants such as cows and sheep) have a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat. 
  • Hydrogenation and Transfat:
    • Plant fat can be made solid by heating the oil and passing hydrogen bubbles through the liquid (hydrogenation process).
    • Partial hydrogenation of unsaturated plant fats creates trans fats.
    • This is done for following reasons:
      • It increases shelf-life of the food made of plant fat.
      • It improves texture of the food (chocolate for instance).
  • Consumption is bad for health:
    • Trans fats increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and decrease HDL (“good”) cholesterol, narrowing blood vessel walls and increasing the risk of heart disease and strokes.
    • Thus, trans fat is considered the worst type of fat you can eat.
    • According to WHO, trans fat intake leads to more than 500,000 deaths globally from cardiovascular disease.

Need to reduce trans fats in food:

  • Trans fat contributes to most heart disorders and other related diseases causing at least 28 lakh deaths annually.

Global limits on transfats:

  • WHO recommends total trans fat intake limited to less than 1% of total energy intake.
  • Globally, several high-income countries have virtually eliminated industrially-produced trans fats through legally imposed limits on the amount that can be contained in packaged food.
  • Limits:
    • A number of countries like Denmark, Norway, Singapore and South Africa limit transfat to 2% of the total food product.
    • Some countries limit the transfat to 2% of total fat used in a food product.
    • India limits transfat to 5% in fats, oil and emulsions used in food.
  • Ban:
    • Canada and US have a nationwide ban on partially hydrogenated oils.

Background:

  • In 2019, FSSAI had issued an order to food outlets saying they can display ‘trans fat free’ logo on their products and in their shops only if the products contain 0.2 gm or lesser trans fat per 100gm of food.
  • The order is aligned with international food regulations.
  • FSSAI also said that it would look to further reduce industrial trans fat content in food products, with the aim of eliminating it completely in future.

News Summary:

  • India’s food safety regulator FSSAI is set to come out with a regulation to reduce trans-fat content in food products having fats or oils to 2% by 2022
    • Currently, the FSSAI limits trans-fat content in fats and oils to 5%.
  • FSSAI plans to gradually reduce industrial trans fat content to 3% by 2021 and 2% by 2022.
  • FSSAI has also called the industry to come forward for collaboration to find ways to bring down the trans-fat content in foods and oils.

About: FSSAI

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.
  • It has been established under Food Safety and Standards (FSS), 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.
  • Its headquarters are at New Delhi.

Purpose

  • It has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacturing, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Powers

  • The following are the statutory powers that the FSS Act, 2006 gives to the FSSAI:
    • Framing of regulations to lay down food safety standards
    • Laying down guidelines for accreditation of laboratories for food testing
    • Providing scientific advice and technical support to the Central Government
    • Contributing to the development of international technical standards in food
    • Collecting and collating data regarding food consumption, contamination, emerging risks etc.
    • Disseminating information and promoting awareness about food safety and nutrition in India

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