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Avoid cooking oils with carcinogenic contaminants

IANS Feb 12, 2024

Health experts on 11 Feb stressed the need to avoid using cooking oils with carcinogenic contaminants like glycidyl esters (GE) and 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPD).

The global challenge of reducing levels of GE and 3-MCPD in vegetable oils is a critical issue impacting the food industry and oil refiners worldwide.

During the industrial refining process, GE and 3-MCPD may form in edible oils when exposed to high temperatures to eliminate undesirable tastes, colours, or odours.

Although the highest concentrations are typically found in refined palm oil and palm olein oil, these contaminants are also present in other refined vegetable oils (e.g., safflower, coconut, sunflower, rice bran oil, soybean oil, etc.) and refined marine oils (e.g., fish oils).

When these oils are used in various cooking methods such as deep frying, baking, grilling, and roasting, some undesirable chemical compounds will naturally migrate into the food and increase health risks, the health experts said.

Even as cancer cases are soaring in India, the experts called on health officials to set limits like in Europe.

Many studies have demonstrated that regular consumption of GE and 3-MCPD above tolerable limits leads to adverse effects on kidneys and male reproductive organs.

"With increasing incidences of cancer in the country, there is an urgent need to address carcinogenic contaminants like GE and 3-MCPD in cooking oils. As these contaminants present in the oil can cause cancer in the long term, Dr Rahul Bhargava, Principal Director of Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, told IANS.

"With the increasing incidence of cancer in India and the widespread use of cooking oils, government bodies concerned and FSSAI should also take steps to bring these regulations in our country. Display compliance with GE and 3-MCPD limits on labels is crucial for empowering consumers to make healthier and safer choices for cooking oils,” he added.

In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) expert panel on contaminants evaluated the potential risks of GE and 3-MCPD. The EFSA concluded that GE poses a concern for public health due to their genotoxic and carcinogenic properties, causing DNA damage and cancers.

Consequently, accepted levels of processing contaminants in vegetable oils for human consumption were established.

“It's vital to highlight the alarming health risks of GE and 3-MCPD contaminants in cooking oils. Exposure to GE and 3-MCPD is linked to severe health issues, including kidney damage and various cancers. Government authorities in India should also make regulations to control and minimise these contaminants in cooking oil. For good health, choosing cooking oils which are compliant with EU safety regulations of 3 MCPD & GE is important," Dr Sushila Kataria, Director, Internal Medicine, Medanta, Gurugram told IANS.

While India has made strides in controlling trans fats, there has been limited action in formulating guidelines for GE and 3-MCPD. The experts said India must align with the EFSA guidelines on these contaminants.

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