Apart from a few leading brands, most ghee and edible oils available in the market are harmful for human consumption and increase the risk of heart diseases, The Express Tribune learnt on Saturday.

A representative of the Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA) said that markets are flooded with harmful products across the country, selling under different brand names of ghee and cooking oil.

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“Although it is against our own trade, it is a fact that hardly 40% of ghee and cooking oil available in the markets is good for human consumption and the rest is merely a disease,” he underlined.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he disclosed most of the ghee and cooking oil brands available in the market are not vitamin fortified as required by international standards and the law of the land. In addition, direct packaging of imported palm or vegetable oils, under different brand names, is rampant everywhere in the country and is giving tough competition to legitimate manufacturers.

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“In many cases, such ghee and oil brands do not mention mill names and addresses on their packaging to avoid legal action. However, I believe it is the negligence and inefficiency on the part of the government and regulators that has given them a free hand to play with public health,” he maintained.

Most of these products are being used by commercial and industrial consumers, like restaurants, hotels, bakeries and confectionaries, he said.

However, considering these harmful effects, the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has taken the lead from other provinces by announcing a complete ban on manufacturing and sale of ghee in the province by 2020. Though the industry is expressing its strong reservations over the provincial food watchdog’s decision, PFA officials believe they will succeed in their mission with extensive public awareness.

PHOTO: fb.com/PunjabFoodAuthority

A PFA spokesman told The Express Tribune that the authority wants to eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in ghee due to the hydrogenation process, from the human diet. After a rigorous exercise and industry’s cooperation, the authority has brought down trans fatty acid’s ratio from 1.5% to 0.5%, which is permissible. However, there are several brands available in the market that violate the approved standard.

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Despite repeated warnings and fines, most ghee and oil manufacturers are still not fortifying vitamin A and D, as per the international unit (IU) per kilogramme, just to increase their profit margins, he said. Referring to a recent nutritional survey report, the spokesman outlined that nearly two-thirds of the country’s population is vitamin A and D deficient and vitamin fortification in edible oil is mandatory by the law to negate its harmful effects.

According to the law, all ghee and cooking oil manufacturers are bound to fortify their products by approximately 35,000 IU to 45,000 IU of vitamin A and 3,000 IU to 4,500 IU of vitamin D per kilogramme. These vitamins are essential for normal body growth and reduce risks of night blindness and skin related diseases.

The PFA spokesman disclosed the authority has once again engaged PVMA representatives to hear their stance on banning of ghee by 2020.

The consultation process is underway and technical experts from both sides will formulate a procedure for gradual phasing out of ghee in the given timeframe. However, in a meeting held on Saturday, it was decided that the authority would set a special unit for ghee and cooking oil testing in its state-of-the-art lab.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2017.

Source : tribune


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