Food

India's food labelling, promotion laws need to be strengthened: experts

India does not have standardised serving size of foods and it is not required to be labelled

 
By Karnika Bahuguna
Last Updated: Friday 16 December 2016
Experts recommended clear guidelines on serving size and easy-to-understand front-of-pack labelling. Credit:Sanjevi Jayaraman / CSE
Experts recommended clear guidelines on serving size and easy-to-understand front-of-pack labelling. Credit:Sanjevi Jayaraman / CSE Experts recommended clear guidelines on serving size and easy-to-understand front-of-pack labelling. Credit:Sanjevi Jayaraman / CSE

The politics surrounding food in India is highly commercialised with weak labelling regulations and low nutrition literacy adding to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, experts deliberated at the 'Food Talk' workshop in New Delhi on Friday.

The workshop and public meeting on labelling, claims and advertisements was organised by non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

Nutrition labelling is a description aimed at informing consumers of nutritional properties of food. It refers to the disclosures of main nutrients like salt, fat, sugar and energy content. It can also give a rating of whether a food has high or low content of a particular nutrient(s) and also warn consumer about foods that are high in an unhealthy nutrient.

Weak regulations

Indian regulations are weak when it comes to labelling and food-promotion. It is not mandatory to disclose the amount of salt/sodium, added sugar, dietary fibre, vitamin and minerals unless the product makes a health claim.

Also, India does not have standardised serving size of foods and it is not required to be labelled. Serving size gives a sense of how much one may eat from a pack and quantity of nutrients that could be sourced from one such serving.

The country does not even have any guidelines on front-of-pack labelling which is an interpretive form of nutrition labelling. Front-of-pack labelling includes either text or symbol or both. It helps in easy understanding of nutrition content.

"We need a clear recommended daily allowance, clear guidelines on serving size and easy-to-understand front-of-pack labelling," said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE. “The lack of guidelines makes it easier for companies to complicate labels,” Narain added.

Recently, a penalty of Rs 1.1 million has been imposed on Yoga guru Ramdev's company, Patanjali Ayurved Limited, by a court for misbranding and misrepresentation of its products.

Rising burden of diseases

Talking of the rising burden of non-communicable diseases, experts said the growing obesity, especially among children and adolescent, was a cause of concern.

"We are heading towards ‘globesity’ which means we are contributing to global obesity. About 10 per cent of Indian population and 5-15 per cent of children and adolescent are overweight or obese," Subba Rao M Gavaravarapu, Scientist-E, National Institute of Nutrition, said.

“Junk food advertisements adversely affect children”, said Anoop Misra, executive chairman, FORTIS-C-DOC Centre of Excellence for Diabetes, Metabolic diseases and Endocrinology. Quoting a study conducted by his team, he said that over 70 per cent children were not ready to cut down the intake of junk food while 50.6 per cent considered home-made food boring.

The experts concluded that working on nutrition literacy was an important step and stringent regulations for finished products were required.

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  • Good to see experts have been expressing their views and raising awareness. I don't know what went wrong with Maggie and it's tragedy.
    But , I have seen even local have started putting up labels on their food items like home made roti packets have list of ingredients and basic nutritional values etc. On IndiaBizClub

    Posted by: Priyanka Rathore | 2 years ago | Reply
  • Regulation along with monitoring on scientific food labelling is highly essential at today's age. Taxing norms for junc food manufacturing as planned for addictive commodities may help to control the flow of these foods in the market.

    Posted by: Dripta Roy Choudhury | 2 years ago | Reply