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Supporting the Implementation of National Trans Fat Regulations in the State of Tamil Nadu

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for global elimination of industrially produced trans fat by 2023. Aligning with this, India’s food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has proposed to limit the maximum amount of trans fat content in vegetable oils, vegetable fat, and hydrogenated vegetable oil to 2 per cent by weight as part of its goal to make India trans fat – free by 2022. The Regulator has taken a phased approach, where, the industry is expected to bring down the TFA to three percent by January 2021, as against the currently allowed five per cent, followed by the global target of two percent by 2022 (ahead of WHO’s global target). At the same time, effective implementation of the said policies at the state level is highly important for the benefit to reach consumers. Thus, it is important for the government and the food safety officials in the states to make a targeted approach. The authorities should start collecting and maintaining data on compliance, test products from markets periodically to ensure adherence to regulations, educate the industry and consumers on the harmful effects of trans fats and take appropriate action for non-compliance. This will help in reducing cardiovascular deaths, as is the case with countries like Denmark, which introduced regulations on reduction in TFAs in food items way back in 2003. 

 

Trans fatty acids or trans fat is a type of saturated fatty acid that can either occur naturally or can be manufactured during the process of hydrogenation of vegetable oil. Vegetable oils are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to turn them into solid fat at room temperature. This increases their shelf life, and enhances the taste and texture of processed food items. Hydrogenated vegetable fat is a cheap source of oil/fat for branded and local food manufacturing companies. Trans fats can be found in food products such as margarine, fried foods such as chips; chocolates, biscuits and all baked goods. Trans fats occur naturally in milk, cheese, and certain meats. Artificial trans fats are known to raise the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or the ‘bad’ cholesterol in the blood and increase the risk of coronary artery heart disease and stroke. Diets high in trans fats increase heart disease risk by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent. Studies reveal that intake of Trans Fatty Acids (TFA) results in more than 500,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease, annually. In India, that number is pegged at about 60,000 deaths.

The overall purpose of the project is to support effective implementation of the national trans fat regulations in the state of Tamil Nadu. 

1. Seek commitment from the government of Tamil Nadu (GoTN) for trans fat policy implementation and improving public health in Tamil Nadu;

2. Support State Food Authority to strengthen implementation of FSSAI’s trans fat regulations in Tamil Nadu;

3. Engage with key stakeholders like Food Processing Associations (bakeries, restaurants), other Food Business Operators, Public Health Department, civil society organisations and consumers; and

4. Generate media support for the implementation of regulations and highlight trans fat associated health risk factors.

 

1. Policy makers alerted to the harmful effects of trans fats; 

2. Government committed to strictly implement regulations and eliminate trans fats within the specified time;

3. The subject discussed in detail amongst all stakeholders so as to arrive at a collective decision of eliminating trans fats;

4. Depending on situations, different approaches planned for effective implementation of regulations;

5. Food Authorities take actions that act as a deterrent; they are alerted to the ongoing scenario to ensure better implementation;

6. Department officials gain knowledge about regulations and are geared up for better monitoring to ensure compliance;

7. Bakery associations sensitised on the ill effects of trans fats - they use/sell food products with reduced trans fats (within prescribed limits);

8. Food business operators sensitised on the ill effects of trans fats - they use/sell food products with reduced trans fats (within prescribed limits); 

9. Civil society organisations and consumers educated on the harmful effects of trans fats;

10. Advocacy efforts strengthened with civil society participation;

11. Increased awareness and more demand for trans fat-free food;

12. Increased discussion on the ill effects of trans fats and further dissemination;

13. Media informed about the trans fat associated health risk factors and write about it; and

14. Increased awareness and more discussion about trans fats in Tamil Nadu.  

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