Even as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has directed its central licensing arm to issue a show cause notice to Patanjali Ayurved Ltd over complaints about ‘alleged misleading advertisement’, it has emerged that the “US Institute” quoted by Yoga guru Baba Ramdev-led FMCG group on mustard oil does not support its contention.
Patanjali Ayurved had brought out advertisement in major newspapers saying “According to NCBI (US Institute) Hexagon solvent which is a petroleum by-product is carcinogenic in nature.”
It further said that “other than Kacchi Ghani process, most of the other edible refined oils and mustard oil are made using Neurotoxin Hexagon Solvent extraction process.”
It also said “Patanjali’s Kacchi Ghani Mustard Oil does not contain any harmful chemicals.” Kacchi Ghani refers to the cold press extraction process.
The claim that Patanjali was alluding to was extracted by Maryland-based National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, a government body which is a leading medical research centre in the world. The research it extracted was carried in British Journal of Cancer in 1983, done by a five-member team for British Petroleum Company and Shell International.
But contrary to Patanjali’s claim, the study led by S.M.A. Doak, which looked into twelve refined mineral oils, said “hydrotreatment or solvent extraction methods can yield oils with no carcinogenic potential.”
“World over, soyabean, rapeseed, sunflower seed and all other oilseeds process through solvent extraction using food grade hexane and then refined to make it fit for human consumption. The process using food grade hexane is approved by all the authorities,” B. V. Mehta, executive director of Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEA), a body of edible oil producers, told IANS.
Patanjali Ayurved spokesman S K Tijarawala, though stuck to the claim. “The fact that hexagon solvent is a petroleum by-product and it is carcinogenic in nature is a known fact. We are only running a mass awareness campaign on this,” he told IANS over phone in response to emailed queries.
“These methods are safe up to a permissible limit. But FSSAI has not set any permissible limit in India,” Tijarawala said.
The SEA had sent a complaint to the FSSAI stating that “the process of hexane solvent extraction is very well recognised and approved as laid down in regulation of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011” for edible oils.
The SEA had also complained to the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI) about the Patanjali ads.
In response, the ASCI said that the ad “stating ‘mineral oil is carcinogenic in nature and may cause cancer’ was false and misleading by ambiguity and by gross exaggeration.”
The ASCI also said “Patanjali’s claims that many companies ‘mix cheap palm oil in mustard oil to make profits at the cost of consumers’ health’, were not substantiated and the claims were misleading.”
This, Mehta said, “is not the way to promote or market one’s products. It is wrong to paint an entire industry as a thug.
On FSSAI show-cause notice against health claims and for “violations of FSS Act, 2006”, Patanjali’s Tijarawala said that it had not received any such notice. “There is no objection or questions were raised by FSSAI on the quality of our product. We have gone by all standards and have not violated anything. Our products are safe,” he added.
He said “if they are saying our advertisement is denigrating or misleading, they should have first conducted an independent research and tests before simply applying a casual approach on this. This is their moral duty to the consumers. Even then, the moment ASCI raised objections, we stopped the advertising campaign,” the Patanjali spokesman said.
In its directive, FSSAI has also asked its Central Licencing Authority, northern region to submit an action taken report at the earliest.