Thresholds on harmful ingredients: Experts call for mandatory food labels as per WHO-mandate
New Delhi: Experts on Wednesday said that India should make it mandatory for manufacturers to put WHO-standard food labels on harmful ingredients to tackle the exponential rise in childhood obesity, early onset of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
According to a statement issued by the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), the experts said that evidence from countries like Chile and Brazil clearly indicates that a simple and mandatory front-of-pack warning label, such as ‘high in salt/sugar or saturated fats’, has a quick impact on the betterment of public health, reducing consumption of unhealthy food, changing consumer preference and encouraging industries to reformulate.
They made a joint appeal to fast-track India’s adoption of these nutrition labels and standards, calling it an utmost priority.
India should make food labelling mandatory as per the WHO-mandated thresholds on harmful ingredients to tackle the exponential rise in childhood obesity, early onset of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and the overall burden of non-communicable diseases caused due to the excessive consumption of ultra-processed food and beverages, they said.
Dr Sangeeta Kansal, head of Community Medicine at Banaras Hindu University’s Institute of Medical Science, said with more than 14 million Indian children obese or overweight, they are facing an unhealthy future and have a high risk of non-communicable diseases in their adulthood.
“We are what we eat and therefore we must look very closely at the food that is being marketed to us. As doctors, we are gravely concerned with the poor dietary pattern that has become the order of the day.
“Regulatory steps such as nutrition thresholds that make it mandatory for the industry to reformulate and make their food products healthier, at par with global and scientific standards, will go a long way in preventing an obesity or diabetes epidemic,” she said.