Ultra-processed food leads to increase in non-communicable diseases

India is prioritising the adoption of a science backed FOPL and to this effect, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) proposed the draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations
Representative Image
Representative Image

CHENNAI: India has been recording one of the highest growth rates for ultra-processed food and beverages, which leads to an increase in the non-communicable diseases (NCD). However, the Front of Pack Labelling (FoPL) on processed foods could play a crucial role towards providing healthier food options for consumers, reducing the NCD burden on the country.

A city-based NGO, CAG, organised a regional meeting to bring together various stakeholders like nutritionists, consumer group representatives, and the food industry with participants from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka on Wednesday.

“The warning labels will play a major role in eliminating NCDs, especially with children and women, who are at increased risk. The disclaimers were written in small fonts while advertising and stressed on the fact that pregnant women and children under 5 years of age should not consume processed foods as it could prove to be highly harmful,” said Chennai based UNICEF consultant Subha.

India is prioritising the adoption of a science backed FOPL and to this effect, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) proposed the draft Food Safety and Standards (Labelling and Display) Regulations, 2018 introducing FoPL for packed food in India. Unfortunately, this piece of legislation is yet to see the light of day. After several years of lying dormant, active consultations towards FoPL began again in January 2021.

S Saroja, CAG said, “The front of processed food packets should contain clear, simple, interpretive warning labels indicating the presence of high salt, sugar, and fat. This will cut across the barriers of multiple languages and illiteracy in the country. With 32 percent of the Indian food market covered by the processing industry, the massive MSME sector manufacturing delectable and highly popular desi snacks and confectionery, is a key driver of this exponential growth.”

The production linked incentive scheme for food processing industries with a fiscal outlay of Rs 10,900 crore, encourages global standard food manufacturing companies in India and supports Indian food brands for export in the international market. So, it becomes important for the food industry to embrace measures like global best practice FoPL that will keep Indian processed food products at par with global food products.

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