Experts Demanded for an Effective Mandatory Warning Label

Voice of Jaipur, September 10, 2022

Public health and consumer experts in Rajasthan unanimously demanded for mandatory simplified front of the pack labelling regulation to be notified by the Food Regulator at the earliest to address the rising Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the country. This was unanimously proposed by experts in a state level consultation on ‘Status of NCDs and Role of Front of the Pack Labelling’ organised in Jaipur by CUTS International to generate awareness on FoPL and the role it could play in curbing NCDs among wider stakeholders.

George Cheriyan, Director, CUTS International and a member of Central Advisory Committee (CAC) of FSSAI, in his opening Address said that the Front-of-Pack Labeling (FoPL) is a cost-effective messaging strategy to help consumers to make informed and healthier food choices by helping consumers to correctly, quickly, and easily identify products that contain unhealthy ingredients such as sugar, salt and fats. One of the major reasons for increasing NCDs is poor dietary behavior. Therefore, he stressed that the food regulator in India need to move forward at a more rapid phase for choosing an ideal label for packaged food products for consumers in India. Almost 42 countries have started to reap the benefits from positive consumer behavior since the implementation of the FoPL in their respective countries. It has helped those governments to save money from direct and indirect healthcare costs.  In addition, Cheriyan said, before the food regulator moving ahead with a decision to implement FoPL, Health being a state subject, States should be taken into confidence and elaborate discussions should take place.

Sunil Sharma, IAS, Food Safety Commissioner, Directorate of Food Safety and Drug Control, Government of Rajasthan in his inaugural cum keynote address stated that the government officials and many health department employees are still unaware of this critical issue of NCDs and Front of Pack Label.   Sharma emphasised the need to spread more awareness among all consumers as well as healthcare providers. He highlighted that consumers have a right to get accurate information about the products they are consuming and it should not be hampered. He agreed to the idea of warning label for a country like India.

Dr. Ashok Gupta, Professor and Head, J.K. Lone Hospital, Jaipur, during his special address, highlighted that Rajasthan is in the red zone in NCD cases and this is the right time where we need to open our eyes and understand the real cause of the most diseases that occur due to unhealthy diets. Dr. Gupta claimed right eating habits could reduce a large number of deaths.

Sanjay Pandey, National Consultant, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, underlined the importance of the warning label in India. He highlighted that the nonlinear nature of NCDs necessitates a multidimensional approach to addressing the issue. According to Mr. Pandey, consumers are misinformed and confused by the health star rating. Mr. Pandey also added that other nations that have adopted the front-of-package warning label design have made tremendous progress in the eradication of non-communicable diseases.

Satyapal Singh, Programme Officer, CUTS International provided a thorough presentation on the status of the NCDs and the role of FoPL in Rajasthan as well as across the country.

In the technical session that was chaired by George Cheriyan, the key panellist where Dr. Seema Mehta, Indian Institute of Health Management Research (IIHMR) Public Health Department; Dr. R.N.Meena, State Nodal Officer, NCDs, Department of Health, Govt. of Rajasthan; Vandana Vyas, Member In charge, health & Nutrition Cell, Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Right (RSCPCR); and Prof. Kanika Verma, Dept of Nutrition, Rajasthan University, shared their department specific progress and programmes related to the NCDs and their effort to tackle this growing menace. In the closing session, Madhu Sudan Sharma, Senior Programme Officer, CUTS International summarised the deliberation and proposed the vote of thanks.

The consultation, that followed COVID protocol guidelines, saw participation of more than 50 participants including representatives of various government departments, organisations working on NCDs, health and consumer protection organisations and health experts from different parts of Rajasthan.

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