U.S. to curb trans fats by 2018

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it will seek to eliminate majority of partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) from the country’s food supply by 2018. The decision comes after years of lobbying by health advocates and scientists that artificial oils, commonly called “trans fats”, clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease.

  • The FDA aims to revoke the current status of PHOs as a “generally recognised as safe” food product and reclassify it as a “food additive.” This implies that manufacturers would no longer be able to use the oils in other foods without prior regulator approval.
  • The new policy could prevent as many as 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year in the country.

Trans fats:

Trans fatty acids (TFAs) or Trans fats are the most harmful type of fats which can have much more adverse effects on our body than any other dietary constituent. These fats are largely produced artificially but a small amount also occurs naturally. Thus in our diet, these may be present as Artificial TFAs and/ or Natural TFAs.

  • Artificial TFAs are formed when hydrogen is made to react with the oil to produce fats resembling pure ghee/butter.
  • In our diet the major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/ margarine while the natural TFAs are present in meats and dairy products, though in small amounts.
  • The most common dietary source of Trans fats is the partially hydrogenated vegetable fat commonly known as ‘Vanaspati Ghee’/Margarine.
  • Since partially hydrogenated vegetable fat (Vanaspati/Margarine) is rather high in TFA, all food items prepared, baked or fried by using Vanaspati/Margarine contain TFA. These include: Cakes and Pastries; Patty, Rusk; Fried Aloo Chaat , AlooTikki (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Sweets (Mithai) (prepared in ‘Vanaspati’), Cookies / biscuits, French fries, Potato chips, Bhatura, Samosa, Parantha, etc.

Harmful effects:

  • TFAs pose a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats. While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels, TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to protect us against heart disease.
  • Trans fats consumption increases the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
  • It is also associated with a higher risk of developing obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, infertility, certain types of cancers and can also lead to compromised fetal development causing harm to the yet to be born baby.

Why they are increasingly being used?

  • TFA containing oils can be preserved longer, they give the food the desired shape and texture and can easily substitute ‘Pure ghee’. F
  • These are comparatively far lower in cost and thus add to profit/saving.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

‘Mandatory warning won’t make alcohol unsafe’

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has come out with the draft norms amid safety concerns over Maggi recall.

Details of the proposals:

  • FSSAI has proposed that alcoholic beverages, pan masala and supari need not be treated as unsafe food for recall just because they carry the mandatory warning that their consumption is injurious to health. It said the mandatory warning ‘consumption of alcohol/pan masala/supari is injurious to health’ may not make them liable for recall, “unless the beverage or food is determined unsafe as per the classification of recall making it injurious to health or even causing death.”
  • FSSAI has proposed regulations for recall process with the objective to guide the food business operators on how to carry out a recall process. ‘Food under recall’ means the specific lot or batch or code number of food item, which has been determined by the food authority or food safety commissioners of States/UTs as unsafe food causing injury or liable to cause injury to health or even death.
  • FSSAI has said that the primary responsibility of recalling the unsafe food lies with the manufacturer, importer or company engaged in wholesale supply or the brand owner of the food product. A food business operator engaged in the manufacturing, importation and wholesale supply of food shall initiate a recall process at any time to fulfil its responsibility to protect public health from food that is unsafe for the consumer.
  • In case of a recall, the food business operator also need to submit the plan for that unsafe product. A recall plan must be available in writing and shall be made available to the Food Authority or the commissioner of Food Safety of the State/UT, as the case may be, on request.
  • The food business operator shall comply with the plan it has developed when it recalls food and the recall plan shall be integrated into his business. It shall also be part of the annual audit of the food business.

About FSSAI:

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments.

  • It was created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.
  • Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
  • The Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are appointed by Government of India.
  • The Chairperson is in the rank of Secretary to Government of India.

Important functions performed by the authority:

  • Framing of Regulations to lay down the Standards and guidelines in relation to articles of food and specifying appropriate system of enforcing various standards thus notified.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition .
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training programmes for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.

Sources: The Hindu, BS, FSSAI.

Law unclear if celebrities endorsing food products can be prosecuted

The Maggi controversy has given rise to a new debate on the legal liability of celebrities who endorse food products.

What the law says?

  • There is no specific word in the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) about the extent, or lack, of liability or duty of care of the brand ambassador, who signs on to promote the brand as its ‘face’ and takes on the role of a marketing representative. Sections 24 and 53 of the 2006 Act deal specifically with advertisements.
  • Section 24 (1) says in general terms that “no advertisement shall be made of any food which is misleading or deceiving or contravenes the provisions of this Act, the rules and regulations made thereunder.” Here, it does not explain whether the term “made” is only confined to commissioning the advertisement or its actual making. In the latter case, a brand ambassador does play a part.
  • Subsection (2) of the same section says “no person shall engage himself in any unfair trade practice for the purpose of promoting the sale…” This clause does not specify who the “person” mentioned in it is, thus, making the ambit of the provision pliable.
  • Clauses (a) (b) and (c) of subsection (2) holds this “person” legally responsible for falsely representing the standard and quality of the food product, its need and usefulness and also for giving the public “any guarantee of the efficacy that is not based on an adequate or scientific justification.”

Food Safety and Standards Act 2006:

It was enacted in 2006 and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has been designated as the nodal Ministry for administration and implementation of the Act.

  • Act established an independent statutory Authority – the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India with head office at Delhi.

FSSAI has been mandated by the FSS Act, 2006 for performing the following functions:

  • Framing of Regulations to ‘lay down the Standards and guidelines’ for articles of food and specifying ‘appropriate system of enforcing’ various standards so laid.
  • Laying down mechanisms and guidelines for accreditation of certification bodies engaged in certification of food safety management system for food businesses.
  • Laying down procedure and guidelines for accreditation of laboratories and notification of the accredited laboratories.
  • To provide scientific advice and technical support to Central Government and State Governments in the matters of framing the policy and rules in areas which have a direct or indirect bearing of food safety and nutrition.
  • Collect and collate data regarding food consumption, incidence and prevalence of biological risk, contaminants in food, residues of various, and contaminants in foods products, identification of emerging risks and introduction of rapid alert system.
  • Creating an information network across the country so that the public, consumers, Panchayats etc. receive rapid, reliable and objective information about food safety and issues of concern.
  • Provide training program for persons who are involved or intend to get involved in food businesses.
  • Contribute to the development of international technical standards for food, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards.
  • Promote general awareness about food safety and food standards.

Sources: The Hindu, fssai.gov.in.

Delhi slaps 15-day ban on sale of Maggi noodles

Centre has lodged a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against the Indian arm of the Swiss manufacturer, Nestle, and the Delhi government has imposed a 15-day ban on sale of the product.

  • Several States, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal and Odisha, have sent samples of the product for testing, while the Jammu and Kashmir government has advised people not to eat Maggi noodles till the test results are out.
  • The Army and Navy have issued advisories to their canteens to set aside the existing stocks of the popular snack until further orders.

Why?

Recently, some Maggi noodles samples reportedly found to contain higher-than-permissible levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Maggi noodles has been at the centre of controversy since laboratory tests ordered by Uttar Pradesh food inspectors on a batch of the popular snack allegedly found eight times as much lead as permissible.

About Monosodium glutamate (MSG):

  • It is one of the most common, naturally occurring non-essential amino acid, which is found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits.
  • In the food industry, it is used as a taste enhancer that increases the meaty, savoury flavor of food.
  • Although the U.S Food and Drug Administration recognises MSG as safe, it is considered far more harmful in India. It has long-term effects, but show signs of discomfort among sensitive people whenever consumed.
  • Typical MSG complaints include: Burning sensations of the mouth, head and neck Headaches Weakness of the arms or legs Upset stomach Hives or other allergic-type reactions with the skin.
  • Scientists have also discovered that the compound can destroy Retina and parts of the Brain. It can also lead to nervous disorders and radical hormone fluctuations.
  • Many studies have also shown that it is particularly harmful for pregnant women and nursing mothers as infants and very young children are succeptible to brain damage and underdevelopment.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB, Wiki.

IAP HealthPhone programme

The government of India recently launched the IAP HealthPhone programme.

Details of the programme:

The IAP HealthPhone programme is the world’s largest digital mass education programme for addressing the malnutrition in women and children. It is a public-partnership initiative that leverages the increasing penetration of mobile phones in the country to educate over 6 million girls and women between 13 and 35 years of age and their families on better health and nutrition practices by 2018.

  • This programme is launched by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF and supported by Vodafone India.
  • This programme aims to tackle the challenge of malnutrition in mothers and children across India.
  • The programme will achieve its objectives by widely promoting and distributing four re-edited videos from the Poshan (nutritional videos) series, jointly produced by Ministry of Women and Child Development and UNICEF in 18 Indian languages. The Poshan videos address issues of status of women, the care of pregnant women and children under two, breastfeeding and the importance of balanced diet, health and simple changes in nutritional care practices that can notably enhance nutritiona levels.
  • The three-year campaign by IAP HealthPhone is expected to benefit the health of 60 million children in India born by 2025 and will be transformative for India’s fight against malnutrition.

Sources: PIB.

CSIR succeeds in Whole Genome Sequencing of Holy basil (Tulsi)

CSIR-Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants (CSIR-CIMAP), Lucknow, has published whole genome sequence of Ocimum sanctum, the wonder plant ‘Holy basil’ or ‘Tulsi’.

  • This is the first report of complete genome sequence of a traditional and most respected medicinal plant of India, using a composite next generation sequencing technologies.

Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory process that determines the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time.

Benefits of Whole genome sequencing:

  • Considering the metabolic and therapeutic potential of this revered plant, the availability of whole genome sequence is the first step to understand and unravel the secrets of this ‘mother of all herbs’ and to provide scientific validity to the traditional claims of its utility in diverse medicinal usage.
  • The availability of the genome sequence now opens the possibility to identify genes involved in producing therapeutic molecules and to produce them in vitro.
  • This will also facilitate identification of not yet identified genes involved in the synthesis of important secondary metabolites in this plant.
  • Specific pathway related genes identified or mined in this genome could be used for the production of secondary metabolites following synthetic biology approaches.
  • The development of molecular tools and genomic resources will accelerate molecular breeding and ultimately the utility of Holy basil in medical community.

About Ocimum sanctum:

  • It is also revered as ‘Vishnupriya’ and worshipped for over more than 3000 years through the sacred traditions of Hindu culture.
  • It is traditionally used for the cure of several ailments.
  • This herb is described as “The Queen of Herbs,” “The Incomparable One” and “The Mother Medicine of Nature” in the Ayurvedic text of Charaka Samhita.
  • All parts of this legendary, divine and most cherished ancient herb (dried leaf, dried seed, and dried whole plant) are used in several systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda, Greek, Roman, Siddha, and Unani.
  • It is used in the preparations to cure various diseases like bronchitis, bronchial asthma, malaria, diarrhea, dysentery, skin diseases, arthritis, painful eye diseases, chronic fever, insect bite etc.
  • It has also been described to possess anti-fertility, anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, hepatoprotective, cardioprotective, anti-emetic, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, adaptogenic and diaphoretic actions.
  • Many of the basil oil constituents have found applications as medicinal ingredients, flavors, fragrance, etc.

Sources: PIB.