Fight Against Trans Fats in 2021 | UPSC

Fight Against Trans Fats in 2021 | UPSC

      HEADLINES:

The sustained fight against trans fats

      WHY IN NEWS:

Why did the FSSAI introduce new caps and what more needs to be done for global elimination?

SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3: Science and Technology

      ISSUE: 

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, causing over 1.8 crore deaths every year.

FIGHT AGAINST TRANS FATS IN 2021

BACKGROUND

  • On December 29, 2020, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) reduced the permissible limit of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats to 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022, against the earlier cap of 5%.
  • The decision was effected by an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations.

The new rules apply to edible refined oils, vanaspati , margarine, bakery shortenings, and other cooking media like vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
 

  • In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) had called for a global elimination of industrially produced TFAs by 2023.

WHAT ARE TRANS FATS?

TRANS FAT
Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are a form of unsaturated fat.They come in both natural and artificial forms. 

  • Natural, or ruminant, trans fats occur in the meat and dairy from ruminant animals, such as cattle, sheep, and goats.
  • They form naturally when bacteria in these animals’ stomachs digest grass.
  • These types typically comprise 2–6% of the fat in dairy products and 3–9% of the fat in cuts of beef and lamb.
  • However, dairy and meat eaters needn’t be concerned.

TRANS FATS – ARE THEY HARMFUL?

  • Several reviews have concluded that a moderate intake of these fats does not appear harmful .
  • The best-known ruminant trans fat is conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is found in dairy fat.
  • It is believed to be beneficial and is marketed as a dietary supplement .
  • However, artificial trans fats — otherwise known as industrial trans fats or partially hydrogenated fats — are hazardous to our health.

These fats occur when vegetable oils are chemically altered to stay solid at room temperature, which gives them a much longer shelf life.

  • All natural fats and oils are a combination of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fatty acids or trans fatty acids.
  • Our body needs the first two categories of ‘healthy’ fats as apart from being a major source of energy, they help absorb some vitamins and minerals and build cell membranes and the sheaths surrounding nerves.
  • These fats are free-flowing, unlike saturated fatty acids or trans fats, which are considered harmful as they clog arteries and result in hypertension, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular issues.

HOW DID INDIA AND OTHER NATIONS START ACTING ON IT?

  • In 2018, the WHO called for elimination of industrially produced TFAs by 2023, and brought out a step-by-step guide called ‘REPLACE’ to help countries frame policies.
  • This prompted accelerated action by member states and other stakeholders.

However, threats posed by non-communicable diseases started gaining attention much earlier in the 1980s, following which Denmark became the first country to ban TFAs in 2003.

  • In the next five years, Chile and Switzerland banned TFAs too.
  • During the same period, several U.S. States, such as New York, implemented local bans.
  • In its report in 2020, the WHO said that 58 countries had introduced laws that will protect 3.2 billion people from TFAs by the end of 2021.
  • But more than 100 countries still needed to take action.
  • Last year, 11 of the 15 countries that account for two-thirds of deaths linked to trans fats still needed to act.
  • These were Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, India, Iran, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Republic of Korea.
  • In India, action against trans fats coincided with the setting up of the FSSAI.
  • Though it came into existence in 2006, civil society organisations say that its functioning picked up by 2011-12.
  • It was in 2011 that it imposed a cap of 10% on trans fats in oils and fats in India, which was further revised to 5% in 2015.

WHAT NEXT?

  • Civil society organisations in India are pushing for a cap of 3% for 2021 and 2% for 2022 to be imposed not just on trans fats in oils and fats, but in “all” foods.
  • According to those engaging with the government on the subject, a regulation for this is likely soon.

A bigger challenge will be implementation, which is a State subject. 

  • The FSSAI will need to pursue local governments to improve surveillance, inspection of food premises, sampling of food products, regular training of officers, upgradation of food labs, etc.
  • There are also concerns raised by a Parliamentary panel on the regulator’s ineffectiveness.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • The WHO estimates that over 5 lakh people with cardiovascular issues die globally every year due to the consumption of industrially produced TFAs.
  • As per FSSAI, about 77,000 deaths take place annually in India due to TFAs.
     SOURCES:   DownToEarth  | Fight Against Trans Fats in 2021 | UPSC 

 

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