The Citizen consumer and civic Action Group (CAG) and the Press Institute of India conducted in March, a virtual seminar for journalists on trans fats – to sensitise media about trans fats in the food supply chain and its adverse effect on health, the existing policy framework and the need for effective implementation of the regulations. Trans fatty acids or trans fats, industrially produced through partial hydrogenation of oils, are used excessively by the food industry as it helps to increase the shelf life of food and stabilise their flavours. However, they are harmful to health and known to raise the level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or the ‘bad’ cholesterol, in the blood and increase the risk of coronary artery heart disease and stroke. Diets high in trans-fat increase heart disease risk by 21 per cent and deaths by 28 per cent. Studies reveal that in India trans fats cause 60000 deaths every year.
Savitha. T., researcher, CAG, set the tone with a presentation on trans fats and the policies governing trans fats globally, and in India. Dr Sumitra Shanmugham, senior medical practitioner, spoke about the ill effects of trans fats on human health. Dr M. Somasundaram, designated officer for Chennai from the Food Safety Department in Tamil Nadu, joined later to talk briefly about the implementation of the trans fat regulations in Tamil Nadu. Senior journalist Rina Mukherji joined from Pune and dwelt on aspects relating to food, health and non-communicable diseases. Dhakshinamoorthy, stringer for a Tamil newspaper, complemented with his experience covering health issues on the ground. S. Saroja, director-Consumer Protection, CAG, moderated. Earlier, Sashi Nair, director, Press Institute of India, welcomed everybody.