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FSSAI reduces trans fat limit in cooking oils to 5 per cent, CSE calls it a welcome step
In a development that augurs well for the health of Indians, the food safety and standards authority of India (FSSAI) has reduced permitted trans fats in edible fats and oils in the country from 10 to 5 per cent. Environment NGO, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had been campaigning for this since its study in 2009 found high trans fats content in cooking oils.

Welcoming this move, CSE's Director General Sunita Narain said in a press statement, "The 5 per cent limit is a step in the right direction. Although slowly, we have progressed from having a 10 per cent limit first set a couple of years ago. We should aim to reduce it further to near-zero levels."

FSSAI in its latest notification on the issue has reduced the maximum permitted amount of trans fats to 5 per cent (by weight) in hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine and fat spreads and interesterified vegetable fat. The new limit will be enforced by August 2016 and will replace the earlier limit of 10 per cent that was set in 2013.

According to a release, CSE in its 2009 study on 30 brands of cooking oils, found trans fats in all vanaspati (partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) brands to be 5-12 times higher than the standard of Denmark - two per cent of the total fat content.  

The study intensified the debate on need for trans fat standards. In 2013, after having proposed a draft in 2010, the authority came up with a relaxed limit of 10 per cent. CSE had been advocating for at least a 5 per cent limit since then.

Trans fats are formed on hydrogenation of vegetable oils to make them into vansapati. Globally, consumption of trans fats through cooking medium or ultra-processed junk foods is strongly linked with non-communicable diseases, particularly cardiovascular diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been advising countries to limit its consumption. In a similar attempt, the US in June 2015 recognised the use of partially hydrogenated oils as unsafe and banned its use by food product manufacturers within three years.

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