Raipur:Ministers, senior government officials of Chhattisgarh and public health experts have called for urgent adoption of clear warning labels on packaged foods to help consumers make healthier choices. The experts said that there is enough evidence that warning labels are a better choice than health star ratings, which according to media reports, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is considering.
Diet related non communicable diseases are on the rise in India which is set to become the obesity and diabetes capital of the world. According to experts, India should adopt warning labels which alert a consumer to negative nutrients such as sugar, salt and fats in packaged foods. Inaugurating the dialogue, Honorable Minister of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Mr. Amarjeet Bhagat said, “Already,India is facing huge burden of obesity, heart diseases and diabetes and we cannot afford to lose any more time and must choose what is best for the health of Indians. Experts, including top doctors have confirmed that clear warning labels will be the best possible measure to guide consumers and protect them from making harmful food choices.”
Data shows that the packaged food industry of India has grown exponentially in the last 10 years and is expected todouble in the coming years. A front-of-pack label regulation is considered an important policy measure to regulating the quantity of harmful ingredients that can be present in these products and by letting the consumers make the right choice. Speaking at the event, Mr. Vikas Upadhyay, honourableParliamentary Secretary in Chhattisgarh mentioned “India cannot fall behind in embracing this transformative policy measure and mandating standards that are best for the health of our country. Indian food processing industry should champion the cause of Front of Package Labelling in India.”.
Speaking at the occasion, Dr Rajesh Shukla, Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety, Chhattisgarh committed for stricter enforcement of front of package regulation, once it comes into effect. He mentioned this is the right time for strict Labelling Regulations as there has been mushrooming of food processing industries across the country and as state level custodians we need to ensure that food companies are abiding by the standards.”
FOPL is being considered a cutting edge policy measure and part of the set of WHO best buys to stem the NCD crisis. Stressing on the need to keep ‘nutrition first’, Dr Sadhna Tiwari eminent health practitioner and Secretary, Chattisgarh Milestone Welfare Foundation said, “We are consuming dangerous quantities of packaged foods and in some parts of the country the rise has been very steep. Children and women from rural India and those of migrant workers are particularly vulnerable. The food companies are well aware of this shift and focussing on those markets by making packaged foods easily available and affordable. we need to work with the government and with the industry since a strong FOPL, with clear ‘high in’ warning label signs as adopted by Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina is in the best interest of everyone.
Advocate Alka Deshmukh, social activist highlighted “Recent studies have shown, reformulation to make foods healthier does not impact profit. It makes food and beverages healthier and changes consumer preferences as well.”
Emphasizing the need for a scientific approach when it came to determining the type of label that should be adopted, DrAshok Sundrani, leading Child specialist, said, “In India over 17 lakh deaths are due to diet related non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer. Diets high in salt, sugar and fats is a major risk factor for these chronic and difficult to treat ailments. Unless we approach this issue scientifically, there will be limited gain from an FOPL regulation. A recent AIIMS study has revealed that warning labels are most effective for public health. I earnestly hope that FSSAI considers this the government heeds”
Representatives of Chhattisgarh’s food industry, fully recognized the need for such measure and affirmed their commitment towards healthy food. “World over the food industry is taking steps to ensure that their products are safe and healthy for the consumers. If the government decides to adopt warning labels, we are prepared to go along with that decision. Studies have indicated that reformulation to make food and beverages healthier does not impact profit nor does it lead to job losses.”