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Public health organisations call for ‘warning’ label on unhealthy packaged foods

May 4, 2022
Reshma Ravishanker 

As many as 22 public health organizations are pushing for a legislation to stop marketing of unhealthy foods or drinks targeting children in the wake of a steep rise in cases of non-communicable diseases and obesity.

The public health and consumer organisations including the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, Indian Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric and Adolescent Nutrition Society (PAN) -IAP Nutrition Chapter and Public Health Foundation of India have asked for a mandatory “warning” label on ultra-processed and unhealthy foods and opposed the FSSAI’s proposal to label ultra-processed foods with ‘Health Star Rating’

The statement outlines that about 60 percent of annual deaths in India are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and more than half of 5-19 years old Indian children have elevated biomarkers of NCD.

“With growing crisis of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), such as diabetes, cancers and heart disease, the statement points towards governments’ responsibility to warn consumers about these unsafe food products. We vehemently call for a mandatory ‘warning’ label to inform the consumer about these unhealthy and ultra-processed food products, which are high in salt, sugar or fats and can negatively impact health of children and adults,” an official statement issued read.  

“FSSAI has gone wrong both in its approach and the decision to include ‘Health Star Rating’ on unhealthy food and drink products. We are pleased to share that prominent public health and consumer bodies from across the country have come together against this irresponsible move,” said Dr Arun Gupta, convener, Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPi).

Dr Remesh Kumar president of Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) said “IAP endorses Warning labels on packaged foods and NOT health star rating (HSR) system. Food industry might like the stars on unhealthy food products but we believe Warning labels should be used, as this is what scientific evidence tells us. FSSAI May reconsider its decision on HSR“,

 Some other recommendations:

  • ‘Warning labels ‘in ‘symbols’ or as ‘high in’ or ‘excess of’ nutrients of concern should be mandatory
  • Thresholds for salt, sugar and fats should be based on the WHO SEARO’ nutrient profile modeling.
  • Positive nutrients like fruit, vegetable, nuts, and fiber should not be weighted for labelling as these are used for making health claims for marketing.

Also read:

YouTube’s kid influencers are marketing junk food

Promoting healthy food habits in children

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