Indian packaged foods least healthy globally: Survey

Packaged foods from the UK ranked the healthiest, followed by US, Australia

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 21 August 2019

Saturated fat, total sugars and energy density — major contributors for obesity, Type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases — were most prevalent in packaged food samples from India than those from other countries, according to a global survey.

Packaged food and drink samples from India were found to be the most energy-dense (1515 kilojoule / 100 gram). Their sugar levels were the second-highest (7.3 grams per 100 g), after samples from China (8.5 grams per 100 g). But their nutritional value was the least, according to the survey, the results of which were published in Obesity Reviews journal. 

The survey analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories around the world, according to a statement by the George Institute for Global Health, the institute for research in healthcare and medicine, which conducted the survey.

Countries were ranked using Health Star Rating system, which measures the levels of the nutrients such as energy, salt, sugar, saturated fat as well as protein, calcium and fibre and assigns a star rating from half (least healthy) to five (the most healthy).

India placed at the bottom with an overall rating of 2.27, trailing China at 2.43 and Chile at 2.44.

China had the most harmful levels of saturated fat in packaged foods and beverages. 

Packaged food samples from the United Kingdom (2.83) were ranked the healthiest, followed by the United States (2.82) and Australia (2.81).

“Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets' shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar, and salt and are potentially making us sick,” said lead author Elizabeth Dunford.

“Unfortunately, it’s the poorer nations that are least able to address the adverse health consequences that have the unhealthiest foods,” she added.

The finding suggests that nutrient profiling is an important tool to enable policymakers and industry actors to reformulate products available in the marketplace to reduce the risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases among populations.

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