61 Percentage of Rural and 46 Percentage of Urban Consumers Unaware About the Health Harms of Trans Fats: CUTS Survey

PNI News,  September 28, 2020

New Delhi: In rural Rajasthan, Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs) are on the rise during pandemic. However, 61 percent of rural and 46 percent of urban consumers surveyed are unaware about the health harms of trans fats, which mainly contribute to the increase in CVDs. These key findings emerged out of a sample survey carried out by CUTS International in rural and urban areas of selected 12 districts of Rajasthan to check the awareness level of common consumers.

Only 8% of rural and 21% urban consumers have heard the term trans fat. Survey made a specific observation that the awareness level of consumers was little higher when the correlation of Trans Fats was made with Dalda, which is a brand name of Vanaspati Ghee. Mostly the consumers came to know about the Trans Fats from packaged labels and newspapers.

Only 21% rural and 43% urban consumers were aware about the source of trans fat. It was observed that most of the consumers are aware about the Vegetable Ghee, but not much consumers were aware about the margarine and bakery shortenings. Only 39% (Rural) and 54% (Urban) consumers are aware about the health harms of Vegetable Ghee, Trans Fats etc. Surprisingly the consumption of industrially produced Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils (PHVOs) has increased by 19%, from its pre lockdown level, whereas in urban areas such consumption had reduced by 16%.

Only 18% (Rural) and 46% (Urban) consumers know the role of FSSAI as a regulator in forming the regulations, regulating the food manufacturers and limits of Trans fat in fats, oils and Food. Only 4% (Rural) and 11% (Urban) consumers know about the 5% limit of Trans Fats in fats and oils. None of the rural consumers were aware about the regulations related to Trans Fats, but only 6% of urban consumers know there are regulations related to Trans Fats.

Around 74% (rural) and 89% (Urban) consumers supported the move of eliminating the Trans Fats from all fats, oils and foods by 2022 from India after hearing the health harms of the same. Some of the rural and urban consumers were apprehensive about implementation of such elimination regulations by concerned authorities therefore denied to lend their support.

CUTS is a well-known international consumer research and advocacy organisation, which is working on an advocacy campaign at national level to eliminate Trans Fats by 2022 and was part of Central Advisory Committee of FSSAI to guide it for effective regulation on Trans fats till recently. The survey by CUTS was done in the backdrop of the recently launched second progress report on Global trans-fat elimination 2023 by WHO, which highlights the current global, regional and national situations and progress over the past year in countries; and discusses challenges and opportunities for future action. WHO report underscores the need of notifying all the regulations related to limiting the quantity of Trans Fats in fats, oils and foods in India without any delay to mark its commitment for eliminating industrially produced trans-fat from food supply by 2022.

“Trans-fat intake is responsible for the increased Cardiovascular Diseases (CVDs). In the time of pandemic people with comorbidity and pre-existing Non Communicable Diseases (NCDs) are more vulnerable and at higher risk of getting infected by the COVID 19 virus. Even in normal situation, 61% of total deaths in India annually are attributed to NCDs. For every 2% energy of TFA consumption, the risk of heart attack or death from heart disease is increased by 25%. Hence advocacy and efforts for Elimination of Trans-fats from India is crucial”, said George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International. Referring to the finding of the survey, he further added that “Eliminating trans-fat from the Indian food supply by 2022 can save around 3 million lives by reducing cardiovascular diseases and more than 75, 000 premature deaths can be prevented in India each year”. Therefore, there is an urgent need to notify all the pending regulations by FSSAI without any delay, he added.

The commitment of Govt. of India towards eliminating Trans Fats by 2022 needs to be true during this Covid-19 pandemic, when the consumer choices have become unhealthy especially in rural areas during the pandemic, said by Mr. Madhu Sudan Sharma, Senior Program Officer, CUTS International who coordinated the online survey. He further added that though the urban consumer’s choices are smarter and healthy in this pandemic but the overall low consumer awareness about the Trans Fats, its ill effects and sources need to be increased.

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