Fight Against Trans Fats in 2021 | UPSC

Fight Against Trans Fats in 2021 | UPSC


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


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



  • 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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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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