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Aligning food-processing policies to promote healthier fat consumption in India

20 Aug 2015

India is undergoing a shift in consumption from traditional foods to processed foods high in sugar, salt and fat. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVOs) high in trans-fat are often used in processed foods in India given their low cost and extended shelf life. The World Health Organization has called for the elimination of PHVOs from the global food supply and recommends their replacement with polyunsaturated fat to maximize health benefits. This study examined barriers to replacing industrially produced trans-fat in the Indian food supply and systematically identified potential policy solutions to assist the government in encouraging its removal and replacement with healthier polyunsaturated fat. A combination of food supply chain analysis and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders was conducted. The main barriers faced by the food-processing sector in terms of reducing use of trans-fat and replacing it with healthier oils in India were the low availability and high cost of oils high in polyunsaturated fats leading to a reliance on palm oil (high in saturated fat) and the low use of those healthier oils in product reformulation. Improved integration between farmers and processors, investment in technology and pricing strategies to incentivize use of healthier oils for product reformulation were identified as policy options. Food processors have trouble accessing sufficient affordable healthy oils for product reformulation, but existing incentives aimed at supporting food processing could be tweaked to ensure a greater supply of healthy oils with the potential to improve population health.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Health Promotion International