The FSSAI constituted an Expert Group of 11 members from the field of medicine, nutrition and dietetics to holistically address the issue of intake of High Fats, Sugar and Salt (HFSS) in some foods especially as these give rise to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. After reviewing Indian studies, government reports and international evidence, FSSAI constituted Expert Committee has outlined a report stating the health impact of HFSS foods. The report recommends moving towards ensuring calorically adequate and nutritionally appropriate sustainable diets for all individuals at each stage of his/her life course.
In the report, the Expert Group has advised on:
- The health risks associated with high intake of FSS
- Current dietary intake of FSS in the Indian population
- Current level of FSS in Indian food products in the market
- Potential health risks in vulnerable groups from consumption of HFSS foods
The Expert Group has also recommended
- Healthy dietary intake of Fat, Sugar and Salt
- Regulatory limits for Fat, Sugar and Salt in food manufacturing, processing, import and marketing
- Labelling requirements for packaged food
- Prescribed regulations for display of Fat, Sugar and Salt in foods sold/ served in eating joints and catering facilities
This report will serve as a guideline for the FSSAI, stakeholders, food industry and consumers in rationalising the consumption of fat, sugar and salt through processed foods. It will help to reduce the burden of chronic diseases in the population by reducing the intake of HFSS foods.
Total fat content both visible and invisible must not exceed 20 to 30 per cent of total calories. Out of these saturated fats must 10%, Polyunsaturated fats (PUFA) 6 to 10%, Monounsaturated fats (MUFA) 5 to 8% and trans fatty acids less than 1%. MUFA and PUFA must come from omega 3 fatty acids like fish, mustard oil, walnuts and flaxseeds. It is better to consume low fat milk and dairy products and rotate the use of cooking oils or use blended oils. Consumers must limit the use of hydrogenated vegetable oils used in bakery products, crackers, cookies and biscuits. They must also avoid deep fried foods like samosas, pakoras and potato fries.
Indian adults must aim to keep the levels of added sugar to about 20 to 30 grams per day. Sugar intake must be 10% of the total calories which is equivalent to WHO figures of 12.5 teaspoons a day. Consumers must make it a habit to consume natural sugars from fruits and vegetables. They must limit the intake of foods with high levels of sugar like beverages and processed snacks.
Recommended intake of Salt
Salt should be restricted to 5 to 6 grams per day. It is advisable to consume fruits and vegetables as they have natural potassium which helps improve salt potassium ratio. Salt rich foods like pickles, snacks, dips and chips must be avoided.
The Expert Committee report also recommends
- reliable monitoring of FSS intake at a national level so as to be able to establish regulatory limits
- ban on advertising on children’s shows of foods with HFSS content and celebrity endorsements of such foods
- additional taxation on the purchase of ultra-processed commodities and sugar sweetened beverages
- policy convergence between nutrition, agriculture, food industry and health sectors to bring about reduction in FSS
- consumer awareness through public health campaigns, school education programmes
- industry must be encouraged to reformulate food products to reduce content of FSS
- Positive nutritional labelling so consumers can make healthy choices. Labels must have
- Total calories
- Amount of carbohydrates, sugars, fats, protein, sodium, dietary fibre
- Amount of trans fat added to the food
The Expert Committee is of the opinion that nutrition labels can play a major role in helping consumers make healthier food choices. They feel that nutrition labels can also provide information on how a particular food or drink product fits into the consumers’ daily diet. Reference intakes can act as guidelines about the approximate amount of a particular nutrient and energy required for a healthy diet.
Pictorial depictions and colour coding are other ways that can be used to help consumers become aware of the food choices they are making.