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New Delhi: India’s top food regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India or FSSAI, has said 2.42% of the 4,461 cooking oil samples it tested were non-compliant on account of safety standards, while 24.2% samples failed to clear quality metrics, indicating possible adulteration of cooking oils in the market.

The FSSAI conducted a nationwide survey during 25-27 August 2020 on edible oils to assess oil safety, quality and misbranding in cooking oils sold in the market. The purpose of the survey was to assess the “ground realities" with respect to oil safety, quality and misbranding, the food safety regulator said in the findings of the survey shared with the media on Wednesday.

Following the survey, the regulator has directed states and union territories to intensify enforcement drives to prevent adulteration in edible oils.

Of 4,461 samples tested, including branded as well as loose oils, 2.42% samples were non-compliant on account of safety parameters, which included the presence of aflatoxins, pesticide residues and heavy metals at levels higher than those prescribed by the Food Safety and Standards Regulations (FSSR). Meanwhile, 24.2% or 1,080 samples were non-compliant on various quality metrics. Samples were reported to have presence of hydrocyanic acid, failed to meet the prescribed limits of refractive index, Butyro Refractometer or BR reading—that measures purity of foods like oils and fats, fatty acid profile, iodine value, etc.

“Non-compliance in quality parameters indicate possible adulteration or blending with other oils or materials. Other non-compliance observed in relation to quality were failure to meet the shelf-life standards (acid value, presence of moisture content, rancidity, peroxide value, etc.) and prescribed standards of additives—dimethylpolysiloxane as well as Tertiary butylhydroquinone," it said.

In the label misbranding category, 572 or 12.8% samples were found to be non-compliant on fortification claims like presence of Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Some oil samples were non-compliant with FSSAI labelling requirements.

The cooking oil samples were grouped into 15 different oil types including mustard oil, coconut oil, palm oil, blended oil, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, groundnut oil, canola oil, rice bran oil, sesame oil, corn oil, flaxseed oil and any other non-listed oils. These were collected from 587 districts across the country and four metros by food safety officers of various states and union territories. These samples were then sent to various FSSAI notified labs, where they were tested for safety, quality and misbranding parameters, in compliance with the existing FSSR.

FSSAI said that a meeting with stakeholders was organized on 9 September 2021 to discuss the key findings of the survey. All states and union territories are being asked to intensify the enforcement drives to prevent the adulteration in the oils, it said.

“Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and Ministry of Food Processing Industries are being requested to integrate their efforts in eliminating the problem of contaminants through implementation of good agricultural practices and safe handling or processing technique," it added.

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