A study by the Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) revealed last week that a large number of popular food items consumed by Indians have perilously large doses of trans fat, apart from high amounts of salts and sugar. Most of these manufacturers had been claiming that these products contained zero trans fats.
The items studied—16 in all—include some of the most popular snack choices. These include wafers of top brands like Uncle Chipps and Pepsico’s Lay’s, instant noodles of Maggi and Top Ramen, carbonated drinks like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, burgers and French fries of McDonald’s and KFC, apart from KFC’s fried chicken, and also Indian savouries like Kurkure and the bhujia of Haldiram’s.
Trans fat enters mostly in food production processes. Considered dangerous for elevating the chances of a coronary heart disease, apart from other health problems like obesity and infertility in women, the WHO recommends that an adult male should consume no more than 2.6 gm of trans fat per day, while an adult female can have 2.1 gm, and a child (aged 10-12 years) 2.3 gm.
The CSE study exposes serious loopholes in the nutritional labelling of junk food in India. For instance, it was found that 100 gm of Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia has 2.5 gm of trans fat. A similar amount of Top Ramen Super Noodles’ (Masala) contains 0.7 gm of trans fat.
In other countries, strict guidelines have been put in place to check the increasing usage of trans fat. In Argentina, Canada and the US, food items have to be labelled with the amount of trans fat they contain. Furthermore, the federal, state and local governments in the US can ban and monitor use of trans fat in restaurants, apart from barring the availability of foods containing significant amounts of trans fat at public facilities like universities and day care facilities.