Organizations urge Health Ministry to add warning labels for unhealthy food products

the union The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has been asked to make warning labels mandatory on the front of the package for unhealthy foods. The call was made by the Nutritional Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPI) and the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BNPI).

The organizations have also written to the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Mansukh Mandaviya, in April 2020, urging it to make front-of-package labels (FOPLs) mandatory for unhealthy food products. The letter read: “Aware that diseases such as diabetes, cancers and heart attacks constitute the majority of annual deaths in India, and the strong association of unhealthy ultra-processed diets with such diseases, we believe that for minimizing the burden of NCDs, reducing the growing consumption of unhealthy food products is essential.”

He added: “Current scientific evidence favors urgent action on the OFPL front, with an unambiguous preference for warning labels, particularly in settings like India where literacy levels are under -optimal. The evidence does not support the adoption of the Health Star Rating. OFPL.”

The Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) is currently developing front-of-package labeling on unhealthy food products and decided to include “Health Star Rating” in the draft regulations, as noted in the minutes of the stakeholders meeting held on February 15, 2022.

In a policy brief issued earlier this year, the organizations pointed out that while a large part of the population continues to suffer from malnutrition, India faces a serious crisis of a increasing overweight and obesity with consequent high and growing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

The brief stated: “In fact, it is already referred to as the ‘diabetes capital of the world’, with the country’s diabetic population expected to reach 69.9 million by 2025 and 80 million by 2030, an increase of 266%. ” Hypertension follows closely. One of the main determinants of this trend is known to be the overconsumption of processed and ultra-processed foods (UPF) which contain high levels of salt, sugar and fat; the so-called “critical nutrients and chemical additives” that harm public health.

The thesis emphasized that the OFPL is a simple, inexpensive and practical tool, and an effective tool to inform consumers about the public health implications of the foods they purchase for consumption. He also added that given the burden of disease associated with highly processed foods, FOPL cannot be left to the food industry which has a mandate to make a profit and has no public health mandate obligations. “All the existing evidence has shown that voluntary FOPL does not happen,” he said.

The organizations said the trend of increasing obesity and resulting NCDs is a serious public health problem of massive proportions, requiring urgent action to educate consumers and reduce consumption of high-salt foods. , sugar and fat.

Maria J. Book