Consumers Need Help Identifying Harmful Food Products – Warning Labels Fit the Size and Science in India

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In India, FoP labeling on packaged foods was recommended in 2014 by an expert committee set up by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). However, the country has not made progress in passing a law. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is currently working on a draft regulation and has identified the following key parameters crucial for healthy dietary needs – Fat content, sugar and salt or sodium content, and the number of calories in the product. The draft was published by the FSSAI in 2018, but it went into cold storage due to pressure from the industry. The industry must be the loser as the market and marketing focus on salt and salt high in sugar; Fatty foods which are a matter of concern as controlling non-communicable diseases like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity which are on the rise in India is paramount. Sometimes brands add vitamins and minerals, but these do not justify consuming these low energy products.

The aim of FOP nutritional labeling is also to encourage food suppliers to offer products with a healthier composition. The food industry has largely opposed the creation of government approved FOPL systems. The food industry has also expressed more clearly its opposition to labeling programs which are mandatory rather than voluntary. The lack of global and regional consistency on FoP nutrition labeling has resulted in the proliferation of a range of systems in various parts of the world. Such a variety means that there are some important differences between them, such as:

  • Some systems are voluntary, while others are mandatory.
  • The nutrients listed or taken into account vary between fats and / or saturated fats, and / or trans fatty acids; sodium or salt; sugars and / or added sugars and / or free sugars; and / or energy value; and / or other positive nutrients.
  • Nutrient profiling thresholds, calculated either per serving or per 100 g of a food or drink, and the food categories for their application, vary.
  • Some systems are informative and include information about the amount of key nutrients in the product, while others are interpretive, based on symbols, colors, words and statements, or are a mixture of informative and interpretative approaches. .

This has impacted discussions within FSSAI with professional organizations and civil society organizations, where the debate for an ideal FOP label in India has been going on for months. Transitioning from informative or voluntary FOP labeling systems to mandatory interpretive labeling systems is now the way forward to examine trends. However, the introduction of a weak system will beat the very goal of this long transition by the FSSAI. India is a large multilingual country with different eating habits. He also has a large semi and uneducated company that now has access to packaged foods.

So, for all intents and purposes, India should adopt a simple graphical warning symbol FOPL, given that it is easy to decipher for consumers who actually spend less than 10 seconds to grab the package. During this time, it is only possible to spot unhealthy foods. Thus, this time is better used if the consumer only knows what is unhealthy and avoids overconsumption of it. This is called the FOP warning labeling in a square, rectangular or triangular design, preferably black in color to avoid overdosing of the package colors. At a glance, even an illiterate person or children can spot unhealthy food packaging. This FOPL should have a strong nutritional profiling database, 2 or 3 categories, a defined RDA balance, a scientific cut-off calculation, a standard comparison per 100 g / ml and a strong warning symbol.

So the warning label is the way to go in India, while the industry can argue that the healthy components are not counted. The counter-argument would be that the whole exercise of FOPL as defined by the WHO is to identify unhealthy products and going beyond this prism will lead to complications and manipulations. Likewise, consumers looking for more information on health components will always have detailed information on the back of the package. So warning labels, by sticking to a focal point of high sodium, total sugar and total fat, do not allow the industry to play with the algorithms of unhealthy foods. Warning labels empower customers to make healthier choices and help prevent the most serious diet-related NCDs in India.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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