USFDA proposes ban on trans fats in processed foods

The limit set by India is much higher than that set by many other countries

By Mouna Nagaraju
Published: Monday 11 November 2013

The World Health Organization recommends that the consumption of trans fats should account for less than 1 per cent of the total energy intake in a day

The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) has on November 7, 2013 proposed a ban on artificial trans fats in processed foods. The food regulatory body’s proposal to ban trans fats and term them as ‘not generally recognized as safe” for consumption is subject to a 60-day comment period during which USFDA will gather additional information and public comments before taking a final decision.

Although the intake of trans fats has reduced from 4.6 grams per day in 2003 to 1 gram per day in 2012, the proposed restriction will help save thousands of American lives. The proposal is not the first public effort to ban trans fats in the US. In 2006, New York had banned their use in cooking in restaurants. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that the consumption of trans fats should account for less than 1 per cent of the total energy intake in a day. Denmark was the first country in the world to set a 2 gm limit for trans fats per 100 gm oils or fats in all food products.

When will India take a firm stand?

The situation in India is completely different. After many years of deliberations, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in June this year had set a maximum limit of 10 per cent (by weight) for trans fats in fats, oils and fat emulsions. This limit is much higher than that set by countries such like Denmark and Switzerland.

Earlier, in 2009, the oil and fats sub-committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) had agreed on a 10 per cent limit on trans fats in vanaspati ghee sold in India. Members of this sub-committee also agreed that the trans fat levels should be brought down to five per cent in three years.

Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment, in 2009, had examined the profile of fatty acids in various solid and liquid fats sold in the Indian markets and found that trans fats present in them were much above the recommended levels.

The ‘trans’ buzz

Trans fat is short for trans fatty acid.  They are created during hydrogenation of liquid vegetable oils, to solidify them. They are present in foods like French fries, baked food and doughnuts. The consumption of these fats raises the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), known as the ‘bad’ cholesterol, while it reduces the levels of high-density lipoprotein (LDL), the ‘good’ cholesterol, thus contributing to coronary heart disease. Trans fats are also associated with health problems ranging from cancers of breast and large intestine to heart stroke, diabetes and allergies. They can also affect the development of a foetus.

Trans fat consumption and aggression

Revised draft on regulation of trans fatty acids (TFAs) in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs)

Fatty acids profile of edible oils and fats in India

Dietary fat intake and the risk of depression: The SUN Project

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