The United States has banned trans fats in their food products. Why is this relevant to us in India? We need to follow this path as well.
Trans fats are partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and they lurk everywhere in our food. Biscuits, cakes, chips and vanaspati ghee(dalda) are a few items that have trans fats. Most restaurants also use dalda regularly. Trans fats improve the texture, shelf life and or flavor of foods.
Scientists have declared emphatically that there are no health benefits to trans fats. They can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease and it is no secret that India’s heart disease has increased four-fold over the past couple of decades.
We do have regulations on labeling of trans fats on food products, but they are not enforced, and in fact companies are deliberately labeling their products as “trans fat free” when they are not. The Delhi based watchdog, Center for Science and Environment(CSE) has a food lab and studied these claims. They found Haldiram Aloo Bhujia and Top Ramen instant noodles claim to be trans fats-free was false. As per FSSAI(Food Safety Standards Authority of India) rules, a product can claim to be trans fats free if it contains less than 0.2 gm of trans fats per serving. As per the CSE study, a packet of Top Ramen instant noodles has 0.6 gm of trans fats; 100 gm of Haldiram Aloo Bhujia has 2.5 gm of trans fats. Though Haldiram claims its serving size is 10 gm, it is nothing but a gimmick. Consumption habit of people exceed this serving size and they end up consuming more trans fats.
Many brands put misleading information about their trans fats content on the label. Products like Lay’s American Style Cream & Onion claim that they have “zero” trans fats in 100 grams of their products. However, CSE study found 0.9 gm trans fats in 100 gm of the product. Similarly brands like Haldiram Aloo Bhujia, Bingo Oye Pudina chips, Top Ramen noodles claim they have “zero trans fats” per 100 gm of product. But CSE results show otherwise.
We cannot have a total ban of trasn fats as yet, (the US has been phasing these fats out for more than a decade) but awareness, regulation, and enforcement are crucial.