The government is taking urgent measures to regulate the increasing use of margarine, an emulsion of edible vegetable oil, in hotels, restaurants and other food outlets.
Margarine with a heavy presence of trans fats is known to affect health. It is a cheap alternative to butter made out of cow’s milk. This has affected the sale of butter, which in turn has resulted in losses to dairy farmers.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Nitin Gadkari has raised concerns over this issue and had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking government control over the use of margarine. Consequently, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has directed the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to take corrective measures.
The FSSAI has issued directives to regulate the use of margarine in edible items. It has clarified that the limit of trans fats is fixed at not more than 5 per cent in bakery and industrial margarine. The process is underway to reduce the limit of trans fats in edible oils and fats to not more than 3 per cent by 2021, and not more than 2 per cent by 2022.
It has been made mandatory to declare the quantity of trans fats and saturated fats on the labels of margarine products. The FSSAI is amending the FSS (Food Product Standards and Food Additives) Regulations, 2011, by including a specific definition for dairy analogue and specifying the additional labelling criterion for such products.
The name of the product shall be clear to reflect its true nature. A declaration “This is not a dairy product” must appear on the label.
Since the use of margarine and other dairy analogues in prepared food, and food served at eateries or packed at takeaway joints can be done without the knowledge of customers (as labels can be removed from the product before use or serving) FSSAI is also exploring options to foolproof measures.
Some of the steps include a declaration by restaurants and eating joints on the use of dairy analogue; checks for non-compliance by restaurants; providing information to consumers about use of dairy analogues in prepared food; creating awareness through guidance documents/FAQs; other labelling requirements which may help consumers to differentiate between butter and margarine.
These steps by the government will not only give respite to the consumers but also increase the use of butter made from cow’s milk, which in turn will help dairy farmers. It is expected that with these measures, the use of margarine will be restricted in the next two years.
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