India approves two COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

The Central Drugs and Standards Committee (CDSCO) has formally approved the COVID-19 vaccines by Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India (SII).

  • Central Drugs and Standards Control Organisation is the apex regulator of drug and vaccine trials.

Key Details:

  • This allows the vaccines — Covishield by SII based on the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, and Covaxin by Bharat Biotech — to be offered to healthcare workers and frontline workers in India.
  • The Health Ministry had said that 3 crore such personnel, considered at the highest risk for COVID-19, would be given the vaccine for free.
  • Neither Covishield nor Covaxin has completed the crucial Phase-3 trials, under which a vaccine candidate is administered to volunteers at multiple locations across the country.
  • The approval is based on a recommendation by a Subject Expert Committee.
    • The Subject Expert Committee consists of domain knowledge experts.
  • However, the vaccine, as of now is not for everybody, and is being given under restricted use condition.

More about COVID-19 Vaccines

Covaxin:

  • Covaxin is India’s first indigenous COVID vaccine.
  • It is being developed by the corona vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech.
  • It has been developed based on an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 strain cultured at the National Institute of Virology, an ICMR body.
  • This vaccine is developed on Vero cell platform, which has a well-established track record of safety and efficacy in the country & globally.

Covishield:

  • Covishield has been developed by the UK’s University of Oxford and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
  • The Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) has made a collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca to manufacture the Covishield vaccine.
    • SII is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer.

FSSAI slashes limit for transfat levels in foods

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has revised the transfat limits in foods.

  • The amount of trans fatty acids (TFA) in oils and fats have been capped at 3% for 2021 and 2% by 2022 from the current permissible limit of 5%.
  • This has been brought into effect through an amendment to the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations.

Key Details:

  • The FSSAI rule comes at the time of a pandemic where the burden of non-communicable diseases has risen. Cardiovascular diseases, along with diabetes, are proving fatal for COVID-19 patients.
  • The revised regulation applies to edible refined oils, vanaspati (partially hydrogenated oils), margarine, bakery shortenings and other mediums of cooking such as vegetable fat spreads and mixed fat spreads.
  • While the regulation comes into effect immediately, industry players were made to take a pledge back in 2018 that they would comply with the WHO’s call for action to reduce TFA by 3% by 2021.

Issues and Concerns:

  • According to the World Health Organization, approximately 5.4 lakh deaths take place each year globally because of the intake of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids.
  • India has among the highest number of coronary heart disease cases in the world and in India, this killer ingredient remains at large in food.
  • It poses a higher risk of heart disease than saturated fats.
  • While saturated fats raise total cholesterol levels; TFAs not only raise total cholesterol levels but also reduce the good cholesterol (HDL).

What can be the Way forward?

  • Bakeries, sweet shops and other food business operators can voluntarily display ‘trans fat free’ logo on food products and in their outlets, according to the food safety regulator FSSAI.
    • FSSAI calls for declaring quantity of salt, added sugar, saturated fats and trans fats and mentioning serving size, the number of servings and per serve percentage contribution of a particular nutrient to the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).

Additional Information:

What are Trans fats?

  • Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat associated with a number of negative health effects.
  • Artificial trans fat is created during hydrogenation, which converts liquid vegetable oils into semi-solid partially hydrogenated oil.
  • These fats are largely produced artificially but also occur naturally.
  • The major sources of artificial TFAs are the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHVO)/vanaspati/margarine.

Govt. ropes in I-T Dept. to crack down on GST fraud

Why in news?

The Income Tax Department has been roped in by the government to tap illicit incomes rigging the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.

Key Details:

  • The government has been working on improving compliance at the systemic level and at the enforcement level.
  • Of late, concerted action is being taken to ensure compliance in the GST net, pooling data with States, the Income Tax and Customs Departments, banks and other agencies.
  • The recent development comes as a part of a crackdown against 7,000 fraud companies, identified using data analytics tools.
  • Any income traceable to the use of fake bills and other GST frauds shall be considered concealed income and attract severe penalties.

Its Significance:

  • The efforts are directed at ensuring that direct tax collections may also get a boost while better compliance pushed GST collections to a record high of ₹1.15 lakh crore in December 2020.
    • This co-ordinated action had also helped bolster customs revenues.
    • It crossed the ₹16,000 crore mark in December 2020, 93% higher than the same period in 2019.

Nendran Banana

Paper:

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News?

Scientists at the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) in Kerala have come up with a new product, banana grit or granules, developed from raw Nendran bananas.

  • Changalikodan Nendran Banana is a banana variety originated and cultivated in Chengazhikodu village of Thrissur District in the Kerala state of India.
  • Changalikodan Nendran Banana is also known as Chengazhikode Banana.
  • The Nendran banana has a GI Tag.

Varities of banana across the country having GI tag:

  • Nanjangud banana of Karnataka got GI tag in 2005 and has validity till 2025.
  • Two varieties of banana in Tamil Nadu: Virupakshi Hill banana and Sirumalai Hill banana got GI tags in 2008 and have validity until 2028.
  • The Changalikodan Nendran banana grown in Kerala and Jalgaon banana of Maharashtra got GI tag in 2014; both certifications are valid till 2024.

China amends defence law to boost war preparedness

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News?

China’s President has signed an order that has amended China’s National Defence Law.

  • The amendment gives the Central Military Commission (CMC), which he heads, greater power in mobilising resources to protect a new and broader definition of what constitutes the national interest.
  • The broader goal is to speed up the modernisation plans for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
  • The revised regulations on military equipment focus on war preparedness and combat capabilities.
  • The amendment has broadened the scope of key security fields beyond land borders, maritime and air defence, to include outer space and electromagnetic networks.