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A trans fats-free India by 2022?

Food poisoning. Credit: 123rf: <em><strong>India envisions to be trans fats-free by 2022 - one year ahead of World Health Organization targets.</strong></em>
India envisions to be trans fats-free by 2022 – one year ahead of World Health Organization targets.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) intends for India to be a trans fats-free nation by 2022 with efforts underway to phase them out from food in the next coming years. 

“Momentum is growing for the global elimination of industrially-produced trans [fats], with nearly one third of the world’s population in 28 countries now protected from its harms,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said earlier this year. “But more than two-thirds of the world’s population lacks protection from industrial trans fat in their food.” In India, efforts are underway to achieve trans fats-free status with the FSSAI announcing last year a target of trans fats elimination by 2022. 

“We aim to reduce the industrially produced trans fatty acids to less than two percent by the year 2022 in a phased manner,” said FSSAI chief executive officer Pawan Agarwal. “This is in line with our objective to get freedom from trans fats.” 

To further this aim, initiatives such as ‘Heart Attack Rewind’ have been unveiled. ‘Heart Attack Rewind’, released last year, is a public service announcement in seventeen languages which warns consumers of the dangers to health from trans fats consumption and encourages healthier alternatives. 

Last week saw a logo unveiled for businesses and producers who comply with trans fats regulations. “Food establishments which use trans-fat free fats/oil and do not have industrial trans-fat more than 0.2g/100g of food…can display…[the] “Trans fat free” logo in their outlets and on their food products,” the FSSAI explained in a statement. “The use of the said logo is voluntary.” 

“Trans-fats are the worst type of fats with known health risks. India is committed to eliminating it from the food supply, and is progressing towards its objective of trans fat elimination by 2022; a year ahead of the global target by [the] WHO,” said Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan at the Eighth International Chefs’ Conference, where the logo was unveiled. 

“Chefs are a very important part of our food ecosystem and with increase in eating-out pattern…[but] chefs carry an additional responsibility of ensuring that the food served is not just safe and tasty but also healthier and sustainable to the environment.” At the Conference, more than 1,000 chefs pledged to remove trans fats from their recipes. 

According to the WHO, trans fats consumption is linked to 500,000 premature deaths due to coronary heart disease every year. India alone loses 60,000 lives to trans fats every year. Efforts to curtail their presence lend support to the Eat Right India movement, which aims to generate awareness of healthy eating habits among the population. 

“FSSAI has been making constant attempts at generating awareness among consumers,” Agarwal notes. “Not just trans fats, our aim has been to move people away from consuming items high in sugar and salt.” Unhealthy diets rich in these components are linked to a plethora of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), ranging from heart disease to diabetes to hypertension. At a time of growing popularity of fast food and processed produce, the move to improve the country’s eating habits comes as a boon in efforts to tackle the NCD crisis plaguing the country. 

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